There are just as many ways to communicate as there are numbers of people. One of the most important skill-sets a person can have, and particularly as a negotiator, is the ability to hear not only what is being said, but what isn’t being said. Some people instinctively possess this skill, and to others, it is foreign. If it is foreign to you, be encouraged. You have the ability to develop this skill, but recognize that you will need to listen more than speak.
Sometimes being in the room with another person allows you to hear and see the whole picture.
For example, there are categories of people more prone to considering only what they actually hear, but a good negotiator considers what she hears and what she doesn’t hear. She recognizes that the totality of the picture includes what wasn’t said, which allows for a definitive “truth north” at the negotiation table. When you understand what each party wants regardless of what they are saying, you solidify your ability to effectively negotiate.
Dr. Albert Mehrabian, author of Silent Messages, conducted several studies on non-verbal communication and believes that 7% of any message is conveyed through words, 38% through vocal elements, and 55% through nonverbal elements (facial expressions, gestures, postures, etc.) That means that 93% of our communication is non-verbal, yet in negotiation many people rely strictly on the 7%.
The question arises, “Is it smart to attempt to interpret an individual’s non-verbal communication in moving a negotiation process along?”
On the contrary, it is dangerous to make assumptions by which you move forward strictly relying on your perception of the non-verbal communication. Consequently, that non-verbal communication needs to be brought to the table in the form of verbal communication, which should be done by the person who is “interpreting the situation.”
You might say “Am I understanding you to mean…?”
That statement or something similar gives the totality of your understanding based on all forms of communication. The person will generally either respond back with, “I didn’t say that,” or “That is correct.”
A skilled negotiator may provide pushback if she is sensing something different than what the person is saying.
Something like, “I had that impression since you didn’t say….”
At that moment, you now have an opportunity to explore what the individual really thinks.
I spoke several weeks ago in Tip # 6 about silence being necessary as a part of negotiation to pivot or move an idea or subject forward. Part of that silence is knowing when you need to be listening and determining the type of negotiator you are dealing with as you begin the process.
Being able to determine true north in the negotiation process has to do with your ability to determine the correct position of all parties involved at any given time. This determines how close you are to achieving your goal(s) based on the totality of movement, structure, energy, verbal, and non-verbal communication in the process.
People who fail to make this determination along the way are surprised when the negotiation process falls through, and the parties abruptly leave the negotiating table or conversation. When this happens, you know for sure that someone did not determine “true north.”
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CALL TO ACTION:
This week is a self-awareness check on how you communicate and how you perceive others:
- Ask 5 people who know you well this week about their interpretation of how you communicate. We know this can vary based on situations, but in general, we are either more verbal or non-verbal in our communication. (Before you determine someone else’s communication style, you need to be aware of your own).
- Secondly, begin to notice in conversations and meetings this week how much of your perception of a person’s position is based on verbal or non-verbal communication.
- Are you a person who considers all forms of communication in making your interpretation, or are you more likely to take what a person says at “face value” without thought or further exploration?
Knowing the answers about yourself, how you perceive others, and how they perceive you will assist you as you prepare for negotiating. Next week, we will talk about how important perception is in negotiation.