Friday, April 8, 2011

Communication Basics

What do communications have to do with Negotiations? The answer is simple, negotiations are communicating and if you are unable to communicate with the opposing party in an effective manner, your likelihood of success is substantially reduced. To be good negotiators you need to be able communicate. I once read that each party can have three different interpretations of a communication so when you have 2 parties communicating that makes six different potential communications that may occur.

Your communication may be 
  1. What you wanted to say (but may not have)
  2. What you thought you said (which may not be what you said)
  3. What you actually said.

The party communicating with you may have heard what you said three different ways:
  1. They heard what they wanted to hear.
  2. They heard what they thought they heard
  3. They heard what you actually said.

Communication is successful only when what you actually said is what they heard and they fully understood it. For example, if you were familiar with negotiating with Japanese suppliers you would know that culturally they have difficulty saying no. So instead of saying no they will tell you that something will be “very difficult”. If it was your first time negotiating with a Japanese supplier you could interpret “very difficult” as meaning that it is something that they will try to do but feel that it is difficult. If you understand the Japanese culture you would understand that what they were effectively trying to tell you is no.  What they wanted to say was no and what you heard may be more of what you wanted to hear which was yes.

If you negotiate internationally one of the first things you need to do in learning to communicate is to learn the cultural rules associate with communication in any country you do business in. In negotiations with English speaking counterparts you will find that the meaning of certain words will be different between America, Great Britain, Canada and Australia. The same words can have entirely different meanings. Even in negotiating within a country, different sections of a country may have different variations of language and it doesn’t stop there. Most industries and many commodities have a form of language of their own. Many of the terms may be unique or may have a unique interpretation in an industry or commodity. Let me give you a simple example of what I mean. The insurance industry speaks in terms that are frequently unique to only the insurance business. To the outsider, it’s extremely confusing. For individual consumers, laws were written that required Insurance Companies to provide “plain English” documents so consumers could better understand what is being communicated. Business does not get those consumer protections, so if you were ever to negotiate the procurement of various types of insurances for your company, you need to either be able to speak the language or have someone on our team who understands and can speak the language. Companies also have the tendency to develop their own internal language and acronyms that are
unique to them and which, if used with a 3rd party that never has done business with that company, would be confusing at best. Many times the point at which the confusion manifests itself is in the negotiation of contract terms. Contract terms may be slightly different or unique in the way each of parties use or describe them in their company.

Negotiations that both parties want to succeed can fail simply because one or both of the parties failed to communicate. When “Fisher and Uhry” in their book “Getting to Yes”, talk about focusing on interests and not positions, I believe that part of what they are talking about is the need for the parties to communicate to find a common ground. Most people aren’t clairvoyant, so they don’t know what you need or want and won’t understand it unless you tell them. Even when you think you have told them they may still not understand because of the common problems that exist in communication.

To make sure there is an understanding, don’t just tell them what you want, explain it to them and give them examples so there is no uncertainty. That way what you wanted to say thought you said and actually said will all be the same. When they are speaking you need to be a good listener to make sure that it’s not just what you wanted to hear, but its both what you thought and actually heard. To make sure you are communicating you need to question and confirm both understanding and agreement. Confirm any point where they apparently agreed.  Confirm your understanding and agreement on their points.

There are five aspects of communication you need to focus on to be a good negotiator.
·       First, you need to set and manage the suppliers expectations
·       Second, you need to speak like a negotiator and make it clear what you want.
·       Third, throughout you need to make sure that there is a meeting of the minds and that both parties understand and agree the same thing. Most problems that may occur during the performance of an agreement are the result of the parties not having the same understanding.
·       Fourth, lean how to sell you points.
·       Fifth, you need to learn the power of questions as part of both preparing for and conducting the negotiation.

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