Don’t Get Stuck
in a Chinese Finger Puzzle
By Sue Dyer
children have at some time or another played with a woven straw
cylinder about five inches long known as a “Chinese finger
puzzle.” There is an opening at each end just large enough for a
finger to be inserted in each end - and trapped. Trying to escape, you
pull your fingers apart, but the harder you pull the tighter the straw
stretches around each finger. Only by pushing inward, by moving
counter to the direction in which escape seemed to lie, can you get
is exactly how non-adversarial negotiating works. Instead of pulling
toward our own self-interests and protecting ourselves, we instead
push toward the other people and issues involved, seeking to really
listen and understand them. Then, together, we can co-create a good
solution to our problem. The more overlapping your interests are, the
more ability you will have to co-create a solution that gives everyone
what it is they need.
problem with an adversarial approach is that it causes us to pull away
from each other, like in the finger puzzle, and we get trapped. After
that it is very difficult to really talk to each other, to explore
possible solutions, and to co-create durable solutions.
can you agree on a solution when don’t agree on the problem? Talking
to each other, and not at each other, is the key to being able to
agree on the real problem. I have often listened to both parties in a
dispute tell me their story only for it quickly to became obvious that
of course they didn’t agree on the solution (which they have been
arguing over for months and years) – they didn’t agree on the
problem! If you don’t agree on the problem of course you won’t
agree on the solution.
negotiating has seven principles
at its core. These principles are designed create the attitude and
atmosphere required for people to talk to each other, to hear what is
needed, and then to co-create a solution that is fair and justifiable.
Below is a brief description each principle.
Refuse To Be An Adversary:
is number one because it is fundamental to effective negotiation. No
matter what is sent your way, you refuse to get sucked into a
defensive mode; don’t be drawn into their camp. When you become
defensive, the opportunity to come up with a creative solution is
lost, and your mind will be only looking for ways to win.
Communicate From A Position Of Power:
you work toward the common, long-term good, you automatically
communicate from a position of power. If you are trying to do what is
right for both sides, and keep a long-term point of view, you will be
very powerful. Certainly you want to get what you need and to feel
satisfied with the outcome of any negotiation. If you think that you
will never see this person again, you are probably wrong. Most
negotiations are relational, not transactional.
rarely do we have one transaction and then walk away, never to be
affected by it again. Even if you don’t deal with the same person,
there will be someone whom they’ve talked to that you will have to
deal with. Now you are building a reputation. People will give you
great power when you work toward the common good; they will rise up to
Lead, Don’t Manipulate:
integrity is the cornerstone from which you negotiate. Taking a
leadership role will help you move the process from a boxing match to
a dance. Leadership in this case need not be based on actual
authority, but can be assumed by anyone how seeks a solution which
will give all of the stakeholders what they need. Leadership is NOT
manipulation. Manipulation is taking an action to achieve influence
that would be less effective if the other person knew your actual
intentions. Leading is finding out what it will take to bring the
parties into harmony.
Listen Between The Lines:
and conflicts are not usually about what people say they are, they
have more to do with ego. By listening with empathy, between the
lines, you will hear what people are telling you they truly need and
you will be able to create a solution to fulfill their need.
Act As If:
Negotiations and conflicts are won, lost, or created in our minds.
William James said “You don’t sing because you’re happy,
you’re happy because you sing”. If we act in a manner that is
consistent with what we want to have happen, it must eventually occur.
This is the law of consistency; perception is reality.
Decide The Outcome Before A Position Of
Power: Man has the ability
to create, first in his mind and second in the world. Deciding the
outcome before means that you create in your mind what it is you want
to have happen in any given negotiation.
must look at your optimal, worst case, and walk away outcomes in order
to understand the parameters of your negotiation. Understanding your
objectives and those of the other side will help you know how to start
and where to move in order to get your desired outcome.
Do The Impossible:
you believe you can, or believe you can’t, you’re right. Doing the
impossible is based on keeping yourself open to possibilities. Expect
a miracle. One definition of a miracle is a change in perception. This
is what all of these principles are about. Try to look at old things
in new ways, through new lenses. It usually is possible to create a
solution that gives everyone what they need and to walk away with a
new level of respect and understanding.
following the Seven Principles you will find that you are able to
negotiate solutions that are based on fairness – preserving
long-term relationships. The negotiation will be a path to
understanding, not war. As the world continues to grow into one global
economy we become more and more inter-dependent, and, as such, win/win
or lose/lose become our only
two options. Pushing toward each other to find resolution to our
problems is the only approach that makes sense in this new age.
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