When using the time in a negotiation to construct a response, whether it be a rebuttal to a statement/objection or the application of an objective, a large portion of your brain goes offline. We have all experienced being alone thinking about different things, then while in this pensive state someone walks into the room and says something to us. Some of us hear a garbled voice and have to ask the person to repeat what was said. At best it takes us a second to come out of this thinking state, rerun whatever words we think we heard, and then try to respond coherently to what was said.
This is obviously not a productive way to communicate being that you are encapsulated in thought at the same time another person is trying to engage you. How is that situation different from when you are constructing thought on what to say next in a negotiation where you have skin in the game? Being able to make a layup doesn’t make you a basketball player and being able to refute an objection doesn’t make you a negotiator.
A negotiation is two or more sides coming together to create a solution. We may not all be good at math, but we all know that you can’t find the solution to a problem without all the components of the equation. This is where active listening or listening for dynamic information is critical. At its core negotiation is an information gathering process. Now intuitively we all know there is no way to have perfect or all of the information available. Yet when we know we have prepared extensively for a negotiation encounter, we all feel as though our information is solid or the best it could possibly be. There is always information that can only be gathered at the negotiation table. Black Swans (small pieces of information that have a massive impact on outcome), which are something we teach all of our clients and students to look for, generally are not things you know about going into a situation.
So how do we engage in listening for dynamic information and, what may be even more important is, what do we do with it once we attain it?
The simple answer is label and mirror, as an overall process there is of course more to it than that but that is definitely where you want to start. The other beautiful thing about labels and mirrors is that it will constantly keep your brain online because you literally cannot construct either unless you are diving for something that directly originated from the counterpart’s thought process. This gives you the ability to take what they've said into account or use that information to help yourself reach another level in the interaction. Essentially there is no lag time thinking about what you will say next based on the construction of these two tools. They also help you stay focused and really hone down on specific intricacies of what will make a deal work.