The Negotiation Imperative
Negotiating is a bit like breathing. You don’t have to do it, but the alternatives aren’t very attractive.
Negotiation is the daily give-and-take of social interactions. Once your eyes and ears are tuned to the language of negotiation, you realize that everybody negotiates constantly—all day long.
Some of those many daily negotiations are trivial and may not deserve care and conscious thought (and they certainly don’t get it). But many do. The strange thing is, people rarely realize they are negotiating. They think they are just talking or maybe not even talking, just reading each other’s body language and nonverbal signals and responding. Other times they think they are disagreeing, or making a point, or making an offer, or trying to close a deal, or
finding out what’s wrong, or helping someone out, or calling in a favor, or making a sale, or buying something, or fighting their way through rush-hour traffic. People use a lot of different terms to describe these things they do, because they rarely recognize that they are engaged in negotiations.
One of the most interesting recent developments in the field is the rise in popularity of the term crucial conversations or difficult conversations to describe many person-to-person negotiations. These are conversations in which the stakes are high, people have different points of view, and there are strong emotions attached to those
points of view. This effort to create a new term for negotiating may seem strange to people who have studied and practiced negotiation for many years, but it’s not. It’s just another manifestation of
an interesting social phenomenon: most people don’t recognize when they are negotiating. Lacking this awareness, they aren’t able to take advantage of the treasure trove of information and insight offered by the research on negotiation and how to do it well.
When you have those crucial conversations, they will go a lot better if you realize that most, if not all, of them are negotiations, and you therefore apply the tools and techniques available to you
as a negotiator. Many other conversations that may seem casual will also go better and be less likely to escalate into conflict or hurt feelings if you realize that they may be negotiations too.
Then there are the formal negotiations, where you know you are working out a deal, the stakes are high, and you want to get a good result. Although it’s obvious that negotiation is in the air, most people still fail to take advantage of the wealth of research about how negotiation works. We aim in this book to give you a significant advantage in all negotiations, from informal daily negotiations to formal important deals that have to go well. From your
preparations (both mental and investigative) to your conduct, response to tactics, and clarity about style, strategy, and goals, there is a great deal we can help you refine in the pursuit of mastery over the many negotiations you encounter in business and in life as well.
Is negotiation as prevalent in business as in life in general? What’s true at home and among friends is even truer at work. We work in ever more interdependent ways. Nobody can accomplish anything alone, which means we often help each other at work— and just as often get in each other’s way or run into conflicts and problems.
That’s why the business that negotiates better generally grows and prospers faster than others. And that’s why individuals who master negotiation are rated as high in emotional intelligence by their peers, tend to be promoted more rapidly, are more productive, and emerge as natural leaders. Whether it’s sales, administration, customer service, engineering, management, or any other area of business, negotiation skills play a surprisingly large role in