Procurement wants a low price. Sales wants to close the deal. IT wants a longer timeline. Project Managers want adherence to the schedule. HR wants compliance. Finance wants the SOW. Operations wants clear procedures. Everybody has a different and often conflicting objective. Add to this the fact that different departments are often compensated on diametrically opposed outcomes and what do you get? Quagmires we call internal negotiations, which make you feel like you need some Jedi mind tricks just to make progress.
Like Obi Wan Kenobi, don’t you ever fantasize about a small wave of your hand, a softening around the eyes and the magic words, “These aren’t the droids you’re looking for…” Everyone falls into line. Agreements are made.
Fortunately, Jedi mind tricks are rooted in behavioral and neuroscience, which you can use to manage the tension between internal parties trying to get agreement.
Why are internal negotiations often so hard?
When asked, “which are harder, internal or external negotiations?” the answer is almost always “internal.” Why is this?
- We tend to make assumptions that because we work for the same company, we want the same things. But the truth is that we are individuals and want different things. So, though we may want success for our employers, we don’t necessarily connect that big picture success to our day-to-day success in our jobs. We also have different ways of being rewarded, the procurement professional may be rewarded on pricing, while the IT support resource is rewarded for meeting deadlines, and the sales rep is rewarded for the size and length of contract.
- You need one another. No silo within an organization can operate alone, whether you like it or not. All the parts equal the whole, and no one can walk away. Therefore, the stakes are higher. You may see each other every day, or work together on many deals over time. This makes the give-and-take requirements of negotiation more complicated.
- We tend to plan less for them, which makes coming up with creative ideas harder. That give-and-take often requires some forethought, and coming up with ideas in the tension of an internal meeting, where people disagree with resource allocation or feel as if their department is too taxed to be helpful, can be almost impossible.
Three things you can do right away: make them like you
The Jedi mind trick was almost always used to influence what the other party is expecting to see. The storm troopers stop every vehicle, not expecting to find the droids; they could be anywhere! Obi Wan Kenobi persuades them by reinforcing what they expect.
When it comes to navigating your internal negotiations, it really helps to be persuasive. Beyond the most obvious way of getting people to like you, which is being a likable person who genuinely enjoys the company of others, here are 3 ways to build rapport with people that you may not want to be friends with:
- Look for things in common, emphasize similarity. Look for things you have in common, rather than where you differ. This is true for personal and business components, but perhaps especially personal. Research shows that we give the most concessions to the people we like. And why do we like people? For the things we have in common. We naturally gravitate toward similarities, so finding common ground pays off. Think about your friends, are they similar to you in many ways? This can be one of the most challenging components of internal negotiations, especially the workplace becomes more diverse. You get better outcomes by looking for ways to connect with one another, regardless of your obvious similarities or differences.
- Paint a picture of the future, of what you both need to accomplish. The steps to get there come only after you agree on what that vision of the finished deal looks like. To do this, you have to understand what is important to the other party and why it’s important. You can paint the picture of your ideal outcome, but unless you can agree, you’re wasting your time.
- Build rapport. There will be times when you just don’t like the other person and nothing we say or do is going to convince you to befriend them. This is a great time to use common rapport-building skills that don’t require you to like the other person. Use these sparingly or you will really annoy the other person:
- Mimicking: a subtle and effective body-language technique that builds trust with small adjustments such as how the other person is sitting, nodding their head, and so on.
- Paraphrasing: clarify the details by replaying what you think they said, but do it in your own words. Not only does this build rapport, it will help you avoid incorrect assumptions.
- Emotional labeling: this one can be risky if you get it wrong, but when you get it right it can deliver gold in rapport. Simply describe what they’re feeling, “Sounds like you’re feeling overstretched in your department.”
The bottom line – collaboration is optimal
Internal negotiations are hard. You can’t walk away from them, you often have no alternatives and you may be rewarded for results that are impossible to align with your peers.
For all these reasons (and more!) we all wish for a Jedi mind trick that will help us just get these agreements done without so much trouble. But until science comes up with that silver bullet, we’ll have to find ways to build rapport and come up with agreements that work.