In the world of negotiations, Todd Camp and his coaches at Camp Negotiations Systems believe that much of the job of the professional negotiator is to find the most effective way to tell the truth. He attempts to do just that here today.
According to Camp, the focus of most negotiations often relies on misguided mindsets, misused tactics, and poker/chess game-like strategies. Yet amid these elements lies three powerful, often underutilized principles to never lose sight of:
- Have a Valid Purpose: Seek for as long as it takes to understand the challenges and/or opportunities the other party is trying to solve. “This takes much more than empathy which often turns to sympathy which can evolve into the perception of subservience in the eyes of the other party depending on who you’re negotiating with,” Camp says.
- Create Vision: “The ability to sincerely help the other party discover the best way to accomplish their objectives and how you can help do so is invaluable,” says Camp. “Don’t be afraid to discover you’re not the right solution and the deal ends in no deal. You owe this to yourself, your team, and your company if you think either party is signing up for a deal that won’t stick.”
- Be respectful: Demonstrating the respect everyone deserves can only be achieved with the clarity that comes from effective decision-making. “Even if your decision is a ‘no,’ the more respectful and effective you are the more you can count on the other party mirroring that behavior,” Camp says. “This is key in building long-lasting relationships because it reduces the perception of gamesmanship, and both parties respect one another more when they know they can speak plainly.”
As the business world evolves, so do the bad teachings of the “win-win” fallacy and new game theory method, which is a predictive mind trap limiting potential outcomes that neither party gets to see and discover because of the pre-programming on what to expect at each turn.
“We can try fooling ourselves into believing we know how human beings will react in different situations, but this is a mistake,” Camp shares. “Demonstrating respect, effectiveness, and grace even when you think the other side may not deserve it, is fundamental to building the best long-lasting business relationships.”
Understanding empathy in negotiation
Often mistaken for sympathy or agreement, empathy by definition is about understanding the feelings and perspectives of others. In negotiations, this translates to a deep comprehension of the individual’s needs, concerns, and motivations. The ability to step into someone else’s shoes is not just a social skill but should be a natural human desire for those who are sincere and legitimately trying to learn if they can help someone accomplish their objectives.
“So, what is the problem with focusing on just this one word?” Camp asks. “If you think the well-trained procurement teams at Wal-Mart, Apple, and other industry giants care about your level of empathy, they will use your human need to connect as leverage and try to make you believe you have to do better with continuous concessions. They will do this with fictitious guilt trips, aggressive and — in some instances, even contentious — behaviors, and threats that you’re at risk of losing the deal if you don’t give them more.”
Beyond procurement, Camp says he and his firm have seen this tactical behavior time and time again with attorneys, investment bankers, PE firms, corporate development teams, and others who believe they are entitled to use such predatorial and manipulative behaviors.
“They use these tactics because they know that 90% of the negotiators who show up with overly empathetic turned sympathetic mindsets will go out of their way to keep them happy and give them what they want,” Camp shares. “Of course, not all professionals and individuals in these fields operate this way, but rest assured the majority of them can’t help themselves because they believe 100% that they have all the power and leverage.”
In a perfect world, empathy should always foster a climate of mutual respect and understanding, allowing negotiators to identify not just what’s being said, but also what remains unspoken — the fears, hopes, and unexpressed needs that shape the other party’s stance.
“Occasionally, just by acknowledging these elements, negotiators can craft agreeable solutions that are satisfying to all parties involved,” says Camp, “but don’t be surprised when you find yourself in a negotiation where only one side is using empathy. When you find yourself in this situation, it’s essential to pay attention to the three core principles that make negotiators excel in their deal-making.”
Camp is not saying to give up on empathy, but rather stating empathy alone is nothing without understanding you have “the right to veto” any decision being asked of you. “This is especially true if it compromises your ability to most effectively deliver on solving their challenges or helping them secure the opportunity that is important to them,” he adds.
Empathy and building trust
Sincere empathy is an initial stepping stone in building trust during negotiations with other parties who genuinely reciprocate the skill, but it is not the end all be all.
“Trust is truly gained after the deal is done and when it’s time for you to deliver on the commitments you have made,” Camp says. “If you’re good at executing on your end of the deal and they see you as an effective decision maker who demonstrates respect, even someone who uses strong arm and bluffing tactics will trust you.”
As Camp explains, you still may not trust them, but the ability to look yourself in the mirror with a smile will always trump the approval of someone who tried to take advantage of you when you were being a sincere and decent human being by displaying empathy.
“At some point, you will realize the more you master the three key principles, the safer you are to always continue to practice empathy because they will keep you safe against the most difficult and formidable opponents,” Camp says. “Moreover, your current feelings of fear and anxiety about dealing with these personalities will turn to enthusiasm and excitement. You’ll look forward to meeting them at the table when you come across such characters.”