Many of the most productive conversations you have lead to an understanding of sorts. In some cases they allow you to connect with one another in a way that leads to solving a problem, advancing a project, and creating opportunity for a next step or action.
I liken this kind of conversation to a negotiation where both or multiple parties participate to varying degrees.
Because people are involved, outcomes tend to be fairly unpredictable, and that is a good thing.
If we could boil down the dynamics of relationships to a specific and neat formula, we would cut ourselves out of the myriad possibilities that exist for new creation. In fact, while ideas may sound similar at the moment of conception, the sweet spot is in the combinations and permutations we find for practical executions.
If we are to live our lives more publicly - as individuals and organizations - learning how to approach conversation as a negotiation can be a benefit. Our digital imprint and what others experience of us are available for review.
When we talk about listening, engaging, sharing, we employ the principles of good communication. Yet the action does not stop when the conversation is over. The emotion generated before, during and after an exchange creates the momentum for what's next.
We buy, we join, and we connect on the basis of emotion. Then, as a way of justifying to ourselves and others our actions, we rationalize how we got there. This is the correct order in which events occur. See if this statement resonates with you:
"Perhaps the most powerful way to soothe someone's emotions is to appreciate their concerns. There are three elements in appreciating someone. You want to understand the other's point of view; find merit in what they are thinking, feeling, or doing; and communicate the merit you see."
It's one of the many teachings Roger Fisher shared in his second book on negotiation, Beyond Reason - Using Emotion as You Negotiate, co-authored with Daniel Shapiro. His first book was the famous Getting to Yes, co-authored with William Ury.
The model Fisher and Shapiro employ as a framework can be very useful to us as we learn to negotiate the speed and frequency at which conversations come at us in the world of social media. As well, we can learn to be more effective in addressing the context in which the substance of business rests.
There are five main or core concerns to all human beings that you need to be aware of to become more effective in negotiations:
How can you understand the point of view of the other? Find merit in what they feel and do? And communicate your understanding through words and actions? In conversations, the tone and mood come across - are you listening for them? Yes, even in 140 characters, even when it is unintended. Look to find the meta messages, which are the indications of whether a person is being supportive, ambivalent or resistant to the ideas being discussed.
This works in communications even when we are talking about marketing conversations. Cam Beck had a good series of posts on building relationships and advertising. Appreciation of the context and dynamics is a good start. When you're attuned to the other and are willing to see and appreciate their point of view, you are investing your time and money.
(2) AffiliationWhat can you do to build structural connections as colleagues? Think about many of the peer to peer relations we engage in when participating to social networks, too. How can you build personal connections as confidantes? Have you given consideration to what happens when adversarial assumptions dominate your thinking? Also, the best way to meet a person is face-to-face, although I have found in some rare instances that even that may not work out.
Good examples of willingly building affiliations are embedded in many of the posts by Francois Gossieaux at Emergence Marketing.
(3) AutonomyEveryone wants freedom to affect and make decisions. One of the best compliments I have received from professionals I have had the fortune of managing is that I am very keen on giving them the opportunity to shape their job and work. I tend to offer as much or as little guidance as needed by the individual contributor. When possible, I tend to consult everyone on the team as to their view and recommendation.
In some circumstances this desire for autonomy comes across as wanting to be a star. They are not one and the same and they should not be confused. Individuals want to be heard, to express themselves, see their vision and thinking in action. Respect the autonomy of your customers as well. Tom Fishburne inspired me with the fishbowl. Everyone can be a voice in the narrative.
This is about acknowledging everyone's areas of particular status, including your own. When it comes to expertise in substantive issues, it is advisable to recognize expertise. One of the most disappointing part of negotiation occur because of the inability to take this step. We cannot be all experts at everything.
Interestingly, while free agency was a way to express one's status just a few short years ago, we are now seeing the emergence of combinations - day job and a night passion. Particularly with the ability to self publish and express coming at a much lower financial cost. Slash careers are starting to be recognized. Marci Alboher has been reporting on that at her blog.
You can choose a fulfilling role in negotiation and select the activities that go with it. You will know a fulfilling role because it has a clear purpose and it is personally meaningful. It incorporates your skills, interests, values, and beliefs and channels them into the task at hand. How can you make meaning of a situation?
The trap we all fall into is that we play a role in response to someone else also playing a role. Instead, you can step into a temporary role - that of the listener, arguer, problem solver, adviser, advocate, collaborator, learner, brainstormer, facilitator, guest, option generator, mentor, colleague, etc. This calls for an expansion of your role to model the behavior you are seeking.
Assumptions about roles also undermine your ability to wear a temporary hat. To learn more about challenging assumptions and looking for second answers I recommend the ever creative thinker Roger von Oech who has a brilliant post on the grandeur of the lowest common denominator.
Conversations are opportunities to both listen and learn and to be heard. It is quite common that we find ourselves negotiating positions and encountering strong emotions in the process. The first step on the road to connection is the availability to both awareness and understanding of your self and the other.
Where you are in the process, what you bring to the table and occasion, and what you hope to take away depend on that. This is a departure, not a destination or a conclusion. What other thoughts and experiences have contributed to your understanding of the importance of negotiation in conversation?