Shadows and Negotiations: What Groundhogs Can Teach Us About Making Deals
Embracing Adaptability and Anticipation in negotiation.
The Weekly Walkaway highlights negotiation in its ‘good’, ‘bad’ and sometimes ‘downright ugly’ forms. Issue No. 61 (2nd February 2024).
Remember: You are a negotiator!
You are always managing some form of conflict, a difference of opinion or interest.
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The Tactic of the Week
The "Broken Record"
Negotiation tactic where one party persistently repeats the same position over and over and over and over again.
This repetition is intended to make their position more credible and that they are committed to their position, creating the impression that the offer is non-negotiable.
The key to navigating the "Broken Record" lies in discerning whether they have reached their walkaway, the point beyond which they are unable to move.
When confronted with a repeated position, it is crucial to stick to your plan and leverage the Law of Reciprocity. Introduce conditional concessions or repackage your proposals to explore whether this is a walkaway position or just a tactic to get you to move more.
Prompt them to reciprocate with movement or flexibility to change the dynamics of the negotiation and encourage them to reconsider their rigid position.
By demonstrating an open-minded, creative approach, but with conditions that protect you, you will not only challenge the monotony of the "Broken Record" tactic but also stimulate a more productive negotiation environment.
Remember. Never give anything away for free. Always get something of equal or greater value in return.
THOUGHT OF THE WEEK
Shadows and Negotiations: What Groundhogs Can Teach Us About Making Deals
Gosh, is it February already!!? Time is flying this year, and guess what day it is!
To be fair, I didn’t actually know this until my youngest son (he’s only 6) told me that it was Groundhog Day after listening to his Yoto daily before school, but I digress!
It got me thinking, what has Groundhog Day got to teach us about negotiation…
Although Groundhog Day is mostly just a fun holiday party these days, it does also highlight the innate human desire to predict and control the future. And not to mention it serves as a cultural touchstone, marking the mid-point of winter and the hopeful anticipation of spring.
Read on Walkawayer’s…
Ever wondered what a groundhog and an effective negotiator might have in common? Well, as it happens, we have. (sad but true!)
Groundhog Day is not just a day for weather predictions but also a metaphorical goldmine for negotiation insights…
The History of Groundhog Day: A Brief Burrow into the Past (See What We Did There!)
Groundhog Day, celebrated on February 2nd each year, is a tradition with deep roots in the folklore of several cultures, primarily originating from European weather lore. The day revolves around the idea that a groundhog, emerging from its burrow, can predict the coming weather based on whether or not it sees its shadow. According to tradition, if the groundhog sees its shadow due to clear weather, it will retreat back into its burrow, signifying six more weeks of winter. If it does not see its shadow because of cloudy weather, spring will arrive early. Awesome eh! I fancy one to predict my ski season for the year…! 🏂
The most famous Groundhog Day celebration takes place in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, where this tradition has been observed since 1887 when German settlers arrived in the United States and brought the tradition with them.
Punxsutawney is home to Punxsutawney Phil, the groundhog who has become synonymous with the event. (isn’t he cute!)
And get this…
According to local lore, Phil is over a hundred years old, thanks to a magical "elixir of life" (You gotta wonder why they aren't flogging this at the pharmacy!!), and is given this elixir each summer at the Groundhog Picnic which I’m told on good authority extends his life by at least seven years at a time.
Groundhog Day in Punxsutawney attracts thousands of visitors each year, and frankly, it looks like an awesome party and one I’ll surely be adding to long my bucket list!
So what's this got to do with negotiation? I hear you ask!!? Well, read on, intrepid walkawayers; let’s get to it…
The Groundhog's First Lesson: Observing Shadows
Just as the groundhog predicts the weather by observing its shadow, a good negotiator pays attention to the subtle cues and underlying signals during a negotiation.
I just love this analogy.
Negotiators are always observing shadows.
Verbal and non-verbal clues: You are Sherlock Holmes. Look for the signs: their eyes, their mouth, their body. Are they aligned with their actions? Are they consistent with what they say and do?
Observation in negotiation cannot be understated. Learning to understand the deeper needs and motivations of your counterparts and observing the subtle cues can lead you towards more effective communication and ultimately navigate better-negotiated outcomes.
If you see a shadow of hesitation or even deadlock, maybe it’s time to bring more warmth (flexibility) into the discussion.
Flexibility and creativity are key in Negotiation. Remember, it’s not about the ‘winning’; you’re here to make a deal, so if you see the shadows…
Adapt and be flexible with your proposals, repackage and offer new options to keep the negotiation moving. That’s why we use a compass as a tool to illustrate how this situation can change all the time.
Remember, being flexible doesn't mean giving away value unless you are getting something equal in return.
Awareness and adaptability, much like Phil the groundhog’s reaction to its shadow—or lack thereof— it highlight’s the need for you to be flexible and ready to adjust your strategies based on evolving circumstances and verbal and non-verbal feedback.
In negotiations, conditions can change unexpectedly. The ability to pivot and adapt your approach can mean the difference between a prolonged "winter" of deadlock or an early "spring" of agreement.
Emerging from the Burrow: Preparation Is Key
The Art of Predicting Outcomes. The groundhog’s prediction is a metaphor for the anticipation skills required in negotiation.
Groundhogs prepare for winter in the same way effective negotiators must prepare for every possible outcome.
Just as a groundhog prepares for a long winter or an early spring, negotiators should arm themselves with information, strategy, and contingency plans.
Have you completed the ‘sell’ (Think Relationshiop, Awareness, Demand)? Are you ready to negotiate?
Are you speaking to the right people? Do they have the right authority or influence?
What are the variables you are negotiating with? Where can you offer low-cost / high-value trades? Are you creatively brainstorming ideas with your peers?
Do you have enough information about your counterparts? Can you anticipate ‘them’?
Have you analysed your compass setting? How are they likely to behave in the negotiation? How should you behave in the negotiation?
Are you well-prepared with market knowledge and client needs?
Are you being patient? Just as we wait for Phil to make his grand prediction, sometimes negotiation requires waiting for the right moment to make your move. So know when to make your move.
Anticipation involves reading the signs and preparing for multiple outcomes. For you, this translates into preparing for various scenarios, understanding the counterpart's possible reactions, and having strategies ready to address them.
By anticipating the other party's moves, you are able to predict and plan your own strategies more effectively, ensuring they're not caught off guard by sudden shifts in the negotiation dynamics.
“The best way to predict the future is to create it.”
Every Day Is Groundhog Day in Negotiation
Negotiation is a bit like predicting the weather; it involves observation, preparation, and the ability to adapt to unexpected outcomes.
You will all face negotiations in all walks of life, whether it be at work life or home life, something unexpected will happen. The more you prepare, the more you are consciously ‘aware’ of your counterpart and the more you prepare to adapt to the evolving situation, the better placed you will be to maximise the best possible outcome for you.
So next time you're gearing up for a negotiation, ask yourself:
'What would Phil do?’
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