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Tag Archives: Rebecca Stowe
I’ve just returned to work at CMA after 12 wonderful months of maternity leave. Although I wasn’t formally running CMA workshops in this time, I was constantly observing our theories come to life in my new ‘job’.
Being a first time mum brings up many new and unexpected challenges. With the best of intentions, family, friends and even strangers’ unsolicited advice can leave you feeling overwhelmed and confused. And if the extreme exhaustion isn’t enough to deal with, mums can be faced with snide remarks from other mums, family feuds and even arguments with strangers!
Why? We all make different assumptions about what’s “best for the baby”. Whether it be ‘leaving your baby to cry causes long-term psychological distress’, or ‘a strict sleeping routine leads to inflexible children’…. all of these assumptions are just interpretations drawn from the data all around us, such as books, studies, friends’ opinions and personal experience. And as we know, assumptions are not facts. And just as in the professional world, when assumptions misalign, conflict often results.
So what causes the hostility, the tension and sometimes the hurtful behaviour? Let’s use cognitive behavioural theory, and more specifically the Conflict Ladder (discussed in detail in our ‘Difficult Conversations’ workshop) to break down an example:
Two mothers, Debbie and Sarah are chatting about the controversial topic of breastfeeding. Sarah says, “It’s so sad that such a low percentage of babies are breastfed when the benefits are well published.” Debbie (who isn’t breastfeeding) gets teary and goes into “flight” mode and removes herself completely from the conversation.
So what’s happened here? Let’s begin by looking at Sarah’s perspective, starting off by looking at her behaviour which has sparked the conflict:
- Sarah’s behaviour: She made a comment about breastfeeding to Debbie
- Sarah’s emotion: She was obviously feeling very passionate!
- Sarah’s assumptions/thinking: “Breast is best!” and “Every child deserves the right to be breastfed”
- Sarah’s data: She has read information from the Breastfeeding Association of Australia and has spoken to many of her friends who have had positive breastfeeding experiences. Sarah has found it very easy to breastfeed her baby
Let’s contrast Debbie’s experience:
- Debbie’s behaviour: After hearing Sarah’s comments, Debbie gets teary and removes herself from the conversation
- Debbie’s emotion: She is feeling hurt and distressed
- Debbie’s assumptions/thinking: “Sarah is telling me I’m a bad mother and is trying to lay a guilt trip!” and “Maybe I am a bad mother? Maybe I made the wrong decision to stop breastfeeding?”
- Debbie’s data: Sarah made a negative comment about babies who are not breastfed
What Sarah is missing is another piece of data. Debbie had tried breastfeeding for a month, and was unsuccessful, with the baby losing weight. Although she wanted to breastfeed, she was advised by her health nurse to change to formula to ensure her baby would thrive.
So what can we learn from this example? Often we don’t have all the information available. We’ve all been guilty of it – making conversation and quite unintentionally, hurting someone in the process. We need to be mindful of our impact on others, and if we notice we have upset someone, we should have the courage to raise our concern with them and try and better understand one another. And if we are the person who has been offended, we also need to have the courage to raise this instead of opting for the flight response.
No one is saying it’s easy, but openly discussing your assumptions can go a long way at repairing or further strengthening existing relationships. And if all else fails and your assumptions are entirely different, try and focus on what you have in common. In the case of parents, even if ideas around appropriate parenting may be different, we can focus on common interests like providing a safe and supportive family environment.
Senior Consultant Rebecca Stowe offers this advice on how to manage the dreaded “no” within a negotiation. Read what she has to say here…
Q. Sometimes, despite my best efforts to understand a customer’s needs and to come up with creative options, my counterpart rejects even my best offer and decides to go with our biggest competitor. What do I do when I am faced with a firm ‘no’ after ongoing attempts to come up with a deal that will be good for both of us?
Great question. You’ve described a very common dynamic in negotiations. The challenge is what do you do now? Should you just accept the rejection and not be too disappointed, knowing you haven’t agreed to something worse for you than your best alternative to a negotiated agreement (“BATNA”)? Or is there still scope for you to refine your options, or learn valuable lessons for future negotiations?
My advice is never let the negotiation end with a ‘no’. You may think the solutions you’ve suggested are the best ones to meet both of your needs, and often you will be right – but not always. It pays to check with your counterpart to find out why they’ve rejected your offer and what would it have taken to reach an agreement. Be sure to acknowledge their prerogative to walk away – if they give you a firm “no”, you want to be careful you don’t look like you refuse to take “no” for an answer. By acknowledging their right to say no, it makes it safer for them to answer your questions.
For example, you might want to ask, “Obviously we are very disappointed at not winning your business. Can you help me understand why you’ve decided to go with our competitor?” Or, “Can you help me understand what we would have needed to offer you for us to win your business?”
The answers to these questions will help you in three ways:
- You might find out that they have key needs/concerns that either you weren’t aware of, or perhaps ones that you assumed weren’t as high priority as others. Once you have this information, you may be able to re-open negotiations and put forward new solutions to meet these needs and as a result, win their business!
- You might find out that there was really no scope for you to create extra value without agreeing to something worse for you than your best alternative to a negotiated agreement. And in that case, you can confidently walk away from the negotiation knowing that you did everything you could to win the business. It’s important to recognise that sometimes it’s really better for both parties not to make a deal.
- The answer will also provide you with invaluable information about your competitor’s offering which may get you thinking about your product/service and what you could do to differentiate yourself in the market.
So next time you are faced with a “no”, make sure you follow up with some good questions. Great negotiators invest the time after the negotiations to review and reflect on the outcome and learn ways to improve for the future.
CMA Senior Consultant Rebecca Stowe offers her advice in response to a recent query on a property purchase:
Q. I’m trying to purchase a house, which has been advertised as “private sale” by a real estate agent. The price the vendor has specified seems ambitious, and as a purchaser, I’m keen to pay as low a price as possible. While I know the agent’s priority is to represent the vendor’s interests, what can I do so that the agent will assist me in reaching an outcome I’ll be happy with?
Sometimes we make the incorrect assumption that agents are solely driven to represent and meet their client’s interests. Reality is, agents always have interests of their own, and in order for the agent to view your offer favourably and even support it, it’s critical you take into consideration the agent’s interests and the state of your relationship. If you want the agent to help you, you need to think about what you can do to help the agent as well.
Think about the agent’s interests
The agent needs to represent the interests of the client, but it doesn’t stop there. The agent will also have his own personal interests. Don’t assume that the only driver for the agent is high commission. The agent presumably has a strong interest in reputation and securing future clients too.
Put forward options that meet the agent’s interests
You may be looking to sell your house if you are going to purchase a new one. One option might be for you to offer a price for the house (in line with market value), and then incentivise the agent to influence the vendor to accept this offer by proposing that if the vendor accepts, you will commit to getting the agent to sell your house. You may also mention that you are regularly discussing property with friends and colleagues at work, and would be happy to recommend them as an agent.
Make sure your offer is justified with objective standards
While of course you’d like to get the lowest price possible, in order for the agent to take you seriously and to avoid damaging the relationship, it’s important you come up with a price that is fair and reasonable. You should do your research by looking at auction results from other similar properties in the area, as well as general trends in the market.
Building the relationship
The type of relationship you build with the agent will strongly influence whether they will want to work with you. Remember that all relationships are based on assumptions. Often we make assumptions that agents are the ‘enemy’ and are ‘untrustworthy’. These assumptions are likely to influence the way we communicate with the agent and may lead to a hostile and adversarial approach to negotiations, however the agent is likely to better respond if they know that you are trying to work with them.
Your behaviour will also influence the assumptions the agent is making about you, so be careful! Indicate a desire to work with the agent and set the tone for joint problem solving by demonstrating an understanding of all parties’ interests, and signalling a willingness to explore a range of options together. Help them understand that you are facing the issue together and are trying to come up with options that will meet as many of each party’s needs as possible.
So, next time you’re in negotiations with an agent, think broadly about ways to build a positive working relationship. Consider their interests and how you can create extra value for them, and meet more of your own interests in the process!
P.S. If you’re interested in improving your or your team’s negotiation skills, our next Getting to Yes course is running in Melbourne on Tuesday 21 & Wednesday 22 June. Register here or contact us for more details.