These tips focus on supporting you in being your best while negotiating important matters over Zoom. The most important thing to understand like anything in life is preparation. Prepare for maintaining presence and attention, prepare for knowing and understanding what the other is saying, and prepare for the best outcome.
Zoom has many advantages over in-person. One is you do not need to travel. Plan on using at least half the travel time for preparation. I recommend you spend five minutes doing any exercise that helps you ground your breathing, posture and awareness so you are not reactivated by any of the personalities or exchanges. Use at least 5 minutes in ‘The Balcony’. And use the final five minutes in a state that gives you a feel for the outcome you would like to see from the session.
Exercises for grounding can include anything that will get your heartbeat going and cause a change in physiological state. A five-minute exercise activates the endorphins sending good feelings about yourself and others to your brain. When you are engaged in this five-minute exercise pick something you are grateful for to focus on relative to the negotiation. Since the heart of negotiation is understanding yours and the other’s interests, try zeroing in on what your most important interests are and offer gratitude for these feelings. Interests may be unrealized wishes, needs and dreams. There is power in offering gratitude for something even if it has not manifested yet. This helps your physiological state fully embody and hold these interests.
This is best illustrated by the childhood story of two fighting siblings where one child wants to make juice from an orange and the other sibling is baking a cake and wants to use an orange to make icing. The siblings are fighting non-stop and finally their mom in a state of frustration cuts the orange in half and says here you each get half, now go away and leave me alone. Suddenly she reflected and she asked each child again what they wanted the orange for, and she said what if you used all the peel for grating, and you used all the pulp to make juice using the whole orange. A classic win-win. Negotiations do not always work out so simply however when all parties understand the core interests are for themselves and the other, they can genuinely reflect on how to make it work given all the circumstances. You now have the foundation for a healthy and successful negotiation.
This leads to preparing for knowing and understanding. The ‘Going to the Balcony’ concept originates in theories of leadership development and conflict resolution. It represents the idea of becoming the observer of the situation where you and the others involved in the negotiation are on the stage and you go to the balcony getting a clear perspective on the situation. When we can step outside ourselves for a brief moment and separate from the drama, emotions, and sometimes trauma, we gain perspective and wisdom about the situation.
The balcony is also a place to sit next to your counterpart, whoever it may be. You can imagine your counterpart sitting next to you on the balcony and begin recognizing each other’s interests. It is difficult in physical reality to explain how this phenomenon works except to say that 1) it increases your capacity for accepting the other; 2) increases your willingness to understand and commit to the other’s interests – along with your own; and 3) physiologically puts you in tune with the other so there is a deeper meaning to communication.
Take a moment and write down on a pad two columns. One side write down everything you are interested in regarding the conflict and in the other column write what you think the other’s interests might be. Imagine you are in the balcony with the other and on the stage, you see a bridge where you are crossing over to the other side where your counterpart is standing. You stand next to them while you are simultaneously sitting next to them in the balcony. It’s not a si fi movie but does require imagination and emotion. Allow the other to share their inner most interests to you. Breath with them – therapists call this co-regulation. It reduces anxiety and builds trust when you are in tune with them. Consider repeating back what you hear so they understand you are really listening. This is key so they actually feel you might be aware of and feel what they are feeling.
My grandmother used to say you catch more with honey than from vinegar. Your honey and sweetness is not necessarily agreeing with the other. This is a key point to this entire blog. You can show understanding while at the same time disagree with an idea.
The process repeats itself where your counterpart crosses the bridge to stand next to you, listen to you, and repeat your interests back to you. This is sometimes even more difficult because you have to be able to accept that this other person is really listening to you and getting you at your core. It is fundamental to resolving conflict in a successful and durable way that you feel heard, understood and appreciated. It is helpful knowing this information as you go into the negotiation.
You master steps one and two, you are now ready for step three, prepare for the best outcome. Truth is after steps one and two you are now ready for step three. Good luck.