This blog was originally published on 5/28/2018 and updated on 9/10/2020.
When you’re responding to a counterproposal, you need to make sure you don’t get sucked into a game of sequential moves. When such a game is played between evenly matched players and you go second, you can only tie or lose.
Are you interested in playing a more complicated game of tic-tac-toe?
In the following post, we’ll walk you through three things to keep in mind when you’re responding to a counterproposal:
- Delay to save time
- Remember: If you’re explaining, you’re losing
- Consider every interaction an opportunity to educate yourself
1. Delay to Save Time
Saving time is always a good idea. And delaying to do so sounds counterintuitive enough to be interesting.
Delaying to save time refers to the strategic use of Tactical Empathy™ to get your counterpart in the right frame of mind. You know that getting the other side to adopt a collaborative mindset and be willing to share information is most useful for getting the outcomes you desire. To do that, you need to make sure your counterpart is aware that you see things from their perspective.
What we at Black Swan propose is that Tactical Empathy is the quickest way to get there. It might feel like you are delaying by taking the long way because you’re not leading with information that matters to your side. Instead, you’re focusing on your counterpart. And because of that, you’re going to end up saving time by arriving at trust-based influence faster.
2. Remember: If You’re Explaining, You’re Losing
In any negotiation, you want the other side to feel compelled to respond to you—not because they feel like they must. It’s not good when your counterpart falls into the social norm of, They said something, now I need to respond.
A good strategy to make the other side feel compelled to talk is by using Labels™ to verbalize the positive and negative emotions that exist in the negotiation but have been left unsaid. Saying something like, It seems like there’s something holding you back can encourage the other side to share their two cents, for example.
Labels are what build trust. To many who aren’t experienced with Labels, it can seem like beating around the bush. People tend to think quick to trust, quick to agree. Even if that’s true, explaining is a lousy approach. In fact, your explanation could be creating a foundation for the other side to disagree.
Don’t be afraid to use Dynamic Silence™ to your benefit, either. One beautiful thing about silence and human nature is the power of unspoken words. You can only tap into that power by keeping your mouth shut.
So follow up your Labels with silence. It seems like you put a lot of effort into this is more powerful than It seems like you’ve put a lot of effort into this because you put together this presentation, wrote this long paper, and have met with me several times.
3. Consider Every Interaction an Opportunity to Educate Yourself
If you have a conversation with a counterpart and have no new information when it’s over, you’ve failed; every interaction is an opportunity to learn more. If you’re worried about someone being unreasonable or going in with the intention of hoping they get the picture this time, you are walking into a trap of ignorance.
If the other side has a proposal, they probably have a reason for it. Explaining how you have a better idea is a poor way to start the interaction. Once again, using Labels and Dynamic Silence can be particularly helpful: It seems like you put a lot of thought into this (followed by an extended pause).
When the other side thinks you’re paying attention, they will tell you things you need to hear. Remember, needing and wanting aren’t the same thing.
When making a counterproposal, you can’t blindly respond to content and hope for the best. You need to know what you are getting yourself into first. What elements haven’t been addressed that affect how they view doing business with you? Oddly enough, verbalizing those elements is probably the best place to start.
Be careful not to disguise the things you hope they say yes to with Labels. Though you might be tempted to say something like, It seems like you are interested before the other side has agreed, the more appropriate verbalization is this: There seems to be something in the way that you don’t feel comfortable sharing.
The last thing you want is to make it appear that you’re forcing the other side to agree to something that they haven’t.