I love listening to great music in a beautiful concert hall. But, because of an accident I had a few years ago, I am only able to sit for a limited amount of time. Sooner than later, I need to stand. So, when I book concert tickets I make sure to get the last seat in one of the parterres, the special boxes at the back of the concert hall. That way, I know I can stand up– without interrupting anyone else’s enjoyment of the music.
Recently, I had to change the date for a concert I’d already had tickets. Much to my dismay, I was told, when I called the box office, that the tickets for the parterre weren’t yet on sale. I explained to the customer service person that I have a disability and I need to sit in the same parterre seat I usually do. His response, “There is nothing I can do.” He then suggested that I get a ticket for a different seat in the concert hall. But this option was not going to work for me. That’s when I put on my negotiating hat. I explained to him as politely as I could that it’s literally too painful for me to sit through an entire concert, without standing. I also asked him to double check with his manager to see if she would accommodate me. Off he went. When he returned to the phone a couple of minutes later, his answer was, “Yes, you could have the seats.” The manager authorized the tickets!
I was grateful and thanked him profusely. He seemed pleased. However, if I had lost my cool this story would no doubt have ended differently. As you can imagine, I was quite anxious about not getting the disability seat. And when he said there was nothing he could do, my frustration began to build. Nevertheless, I took a deep breath while keeping my emotions in check. I knew if I got upset, he’d no doubt become defensive. And I am certain that he would not have been inclined to go the extra mile for me and check with his manager.
This experience got me thinking about how, in business, negotiations can get a little sticky. It’s the reason I want to share three key tips on how not to negotiate an impasse in business. (At least, not if you want to get “unstuck!”)
How Not to Negotiate an Impasse in Business
1. Show Your Anger
Anger truly can be like adding fuel to the fire of any tense situation. It may even cause one party to walk away. (And remember, once one person walks away — you’re no longer negotiating.)
2. Close Your Ears
Not listening means you can’t take in the other person’s point of view. How can you negotiate when you only consider your own needs?
3. Close Your Mind
You’re listening. But you’re so convinced that your own point of view is the correct one that you can’t possibly see a way to a compromise.
Fortunately, there are healthy ways to break a negotiating impasse. One is reflected in the anecdote I shared at the start of this blog post: Empathy. It’s closely linked to the idea of sharing a story about your own professional experiences. As Victoria Pynchon points out in The Five Most Effective Ways to Break a Negotiation Impasse: Part II, “you can’t argue with a story, only a position or another argument.”
Another way to break an impasse is to let the other party know you’re flexible and willing to compromise. And of course, make sure to ask questions. Not only will it give the other party a chance to share their story, you’ll have more information on which to base your negotiations.
If you’d like to explore further negotiating tools, I suggest that you take a look at Four Strategies for Breaking the Impasse in NegotiationsÂ and Top Ten Impasse-Breaking Strategies. Both of these articles will give you more ideas regarding how you can reach your end goal. Of course, if it helps to think of it this way, always keep in mind that ultimately everyone wants to enjoy the music!