If You Don’t Listen, You Can’t Win: Positive Attitudes for Effective Global Negotiators

This is the second post in a series entitled: The Principles of International Negotiation: Finding Universal Value in a Complex World. You can read all posts in the series here.

In its essence, good negotiation is good communication. When the person across the table from you is from a different country, you’ll see and feel just how critical good communication is!
In K&R’s world, negotiation is the interaction between people to reach agreement. To reach that agreement your job as a negotiator is to understand exactly what everybody wants out of the process. You will succeed when you reach an agreement with terms that satisfy all involved. In subsequent posts, we will discuss the mechanics of articulating value. But for now, let’s focus on negotiation as communication.

In most international negotiations the role of communicator bears huge responsibility. If this responsibility falls on you, remember the two most important qualities to bring to the table: P&L. For many businesses, P&L means Profit and Loss. In negotiations, it means Patience and Listening.

  • Patience means showing composure, having grace under pressure, and taking the time to work through the whole negotiation process. This is especially important when negotiating internationally, because already-complex details may take longer to communicate. Misunderstandings may be easier to create and tougher to unravel. People from other countries may also do business at a more deliberate pace than you are used to. Patience is the rock upon which all good negotiators stand.
  • Listening means hearing with thoughtful attention. It means focusing on what the other person is saying rather than thinking of your own response. Good negotiators hear and capture every detail that will help them to understand hurdles to the deal and to form persuasive arguments. If you’re not a good listener, you can’t be a good negotiator, period.

Poor Listening Habits

These two bad habits can hamper your ability to create the credibility and leverage that are needed to win big deals.

Pseudolistening:  You look like you’re paying attention, but your mind is far away. Negotiation is the time to tune out all distracting thoughts and focus! If you are negotiating with someone whose first language is different than yours, it’s easy to miss or misunderstand an important detail if you let your mind drift.

Self-Centered Listening:  Self-centered listening means that you’re rehearsing your answer in your mind before the other person has even finished speaking. Let the other person finish, then begin thinking about your answer – every time. This is not easy, but it’s essential.

Effective communication begins with patience and listening. Why? Because patience and listening get you information, which gives you knowledge. And knowledge gives you credibility. We’ll discuss the principles of credibility in our next post.