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December 14, 2021

What I learned at Harvard’s Program on Negotiation

This past week, I attended Harvard’s Program on Negotiation.  Here are the Top 3 things I learned:

  1. Don’t assume the other person’s wants are opposite your own.  

In fact, research shows that the zone of possible agreement (where “your side” and “their side” overlaps) is probably 30% larger than you think.  I see my clients do this all the time – it’s really easy to assume that what we want and what our manager wants is different.  However, if you zoom out you can see that we both want the same thing (for me to be successful in this role, therefore helping the company); the negotiation is then set up to become a win/win.

2. “People need to be heard more than understood.”

I always strive to understand what the other party needs so that I can design an agreement that gives us both the highest value, however, in about 10% of my conversations, I’ve been hitting this invisible wall.  This comment by Professor Goldstein – “people need to be heard more than understood” –  helped me realize that I was seeking to understand, instead of just hearing. That in and of itself would’ve been worth the tuition to me.

3. How to say no with grace.

I first read Getting to Yes circa 2015 and just about fell out of my seat when I found out Bill Ury would be one of my professors last week.  I imagine it’s like finding out your club basketball practice will be run by LeBron today.

Despite my best attempts, I still struggle with “no”, so I loved it when Professor Ury shared his formula for a “positive no”:

“Because I stand for X, I say no to Y and propose Z.”

“Because I am committed to delivering an excellent product, I cannot squeeze in an additional workshop that day.  What if we look at the following week, or even the previous one?” 😊

If you’re interested in attending, I highly recommend the three-day course on Negotiation and Leadership. I also plan on attending Professor Ury’s next course on Getting to Yes and Leveraging the Power of Emotions with Professor Shapiro.

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