This is how to actively listen in a negotiation

A wild deer head and neck visible in the photo with ears up attentively listening

The Collaboration Effect enhances relationshiips, resources and revenues. In incorporates connecting relationships, actively listening, judiciously educating and negotiating closure. This article focuses on actively listening.

Listening is an art

In Peaceful Resolutions, a book for those in conflict or those seeking to help others in conflict, listening is discussed several times, but chapter 6 focuses specifically on The Art of Listening.

This takes emotional intelligence, patience and understanding to be a good listener.

In general, when we are in a negotiation we tend to want to get right to the bottom line. Let’s get to it, close the deal and move on. If only negotiations were always that simple. By using the art of listening we may very well be able to achieve our goals even in difficult situations and often in less time.

It all starts with preparation

As indicated previously with connecting relationships it is important to step back an explore our own values and what we perceive to be the values of the other party.

By understanding our own motives, interests and values first, this helps us understand why and how we may want to proceed.

Once these are determined, we need to step back and reflect on those of the other party and determine how we may be able to connect with them. This starts with relationship building before the negotiation and throughout the negotiation.

Listening

Listening is fundamental. What do we do when we listen? We pay attention. We truly try to understand on an emotional and an intellectual level. Often, we take notes to ensure we can recall key points later and to demonstrate to the other party that we indeed are concerned about what is being presented to us.

From neuroscience we know that if we have been listened to, we are far more likely to listen to the other party.

For that reason, listening to the other party is key in a negotiation.

Active listening

Active listening involves summarizing, paraphrasing, asking open ended questions and empathy.

Summarize

When we summarize, we pause and provide a brief statement of what the other party stated.

This demonstrates that we know and understand the main points. We encapsulate the key elements.

On the other hand, if we don’t capture this properly this gives the other party a chance to further educate us so that we should understand what truly are the main points.

Paraphrasing

By comparison paraphrasing involves stating what was just stated, but in our own words.

When we do this the other party can determine whether we truly understand not only the words being said, but the emotion behind those words. To paraphrase we need to:

  1. Let the other party finish their thought and commentary.
  2. Repeat in your own words what the other person said and if possible do it succinctly and better than they stated it themselves.
  3. Ask the other party if this is what they meant.
  4. If the answer is yes, continue.
  5. If the answer is no, ask the other party to restate what was meant.

Ask open ended questions

What are the right kind of questions to ask?

It is key to ask the right kinds of questions.

Asking the right questions at the right time goes a long way towards understanding.

In general, asking open ended questions during the negotiation may be very insightful to understand underlying interest. When we are in stressful situations in particular open ended questions can be extremely helpful. Questions such as
 

  • What you like to have happen?
  • What do you want to accomplish?
  • What concerns or other concerns do you have?
  • What would need to happen for us to work together?
  • What would need to happen for you to be satisfied?
  • From your perspective what is the best-case scenario?

Listen with empathy

Empathy involves feelings. Not everyone has strong emotional intelligence related to feelings.

However, everyone understands the basics of being sympathetic, sensible, sensitive, and sharing like-mindedness.

By pausing and ensuring empathy with the other it may be possible to have a stronger bond and an informal chemistry with each other.

Check process perceptions along the way

During the negotiation, pause and ask the other party how they perceive the process is proceeding.

Why? You may not have picked up on body language, facial expressions, tone of voice and other clues due to cultural or other misunderstandings. You want to ensure that you have a mutual understanding with the other party. By checking in periodically this can go a long way to ensure mutual understanding.

Listen with openness

Often you may find yourself firing yourself up to respond to comments you may find frustrating or irritating.

Calm the fire and force yourself not to judge or find fault.

This takes patience and courage. Your first reaction is likely to retaliate. However, if you force yourself to stay calm and instead focus on listening to understand, this may prove very helpful. The key is to listen to the entire statement. Don’t blame the other person or yourself. Instead focus on where they are coming from, where we are and where we can go positively.

Listen with awareness

There are two elements to listening with awareness.

These are:

  1. Consider and compare your knowledge and experience on what is being said to see if this makes sense to your own reality.
  2. Determine if what is being said is consistent with the actions being presented.

For example, is someone yells out “I am not angry”, you might want to step back and note that the words and the actions are not consistent. This might be a good time to de-escalate the situation or take a break. You can take these 10 steps to de-escalate many situations.

Process of listening

There are many elements to listening that go beyond this short article, but essentially if you work together with the other party and mutually

  • Define the problem (make sure you are both working on the same problem),
  • Identify interests,
  • Generate options,
  • Determine the impacts of options,
  • Evaluate the impacts (economically, socially, environmentally),
  • Select tentative solutions,
  • Test out the tentative solutions, then it may very well be plausible to
  • Implement the solution

Stay focused

If you stay focused, positive and truly listen to the other party you may very well be pleasantly surprised what can be accomplished even in difficult negotiations.

This can even work with difficult people.

In the end you must also realize you can never push a rope you can only pull a rope. By this I mean if the other party truly does not want to work with you, accept this and move on. Realize it is not about me.

About the author

Mike Gregory is an expert on conflict resolution, business to IRS, business to business and within businesses.

He helps firms that want to grow faster and more efficiently by taking advantage of The Collaboration Effect TM.  Mike is an international speaker who has written 11 books including Business Valuations and the IRS: Five Books in One, The Servant Manager and Peaceful Resolutions. Mike may be contacted directly at mg@mikegreg.com and at (651) 633-5311. [Michael Gregory, ASA, CVA, NSA, MBA, Qualified Mediator with the Minnesota Supreme Court]