Butting heads? 3rd party may help

Notes on Negotiation:
Written by Marty Latz, Latz Negotiation Institute

In a perfect world, nobody would completely lose control or say or e-mail things they regret, and all major decisions would be based on the experts’ research. Of course, we don’t live in a perfect world.

So what should we do when our counterparts’ know exactly when and where to push our buttons and we know we can’t easily control our responses?

Family-oriented negotiations involving spouses, kids, siblings, parents and in-laws and family business negotiations and long-term business relationships perhaps come to mind.

Similarly, situations also arise where there’s a major personality conflict with your counterpart with whom you’re forced to deal.

So what should you do in these situations?

Bring in an independent expert.

Let’s say you started your business twenty years ago and recently hit hard times. The recession has taken its toll and revenues are way down. Bottom line: you need to cut personnel to stay in business, including some managers. But several of your managers are closely related to your spouse.

This negotiation may call for you to retain an independent business consultant to opine as to your best course of action. By doing so, you can confirm your thoughts – which are likely affected by the family relationship – with an objective and credible expert recognized by all.

While not a panacea, this can help depersonalize the negotiation and give you an independent credible justification for your move, helping to soften the blow should you need to lay off an in-law.

Likewise, parents might turn to a family therapist with expertise in parenting if they’re having serious problems with a child.

Consider using an agent.

If you and/or your counterpart know you can’t easily deal with each other or there’s just too much potential your personalities will produce major conflicts, consider hiring an agent to lead the negotiation for you.

A major advantage to using agents is that they often can truly step back and analyze the negotiation objectively.

Plus, agents can use specific strategies, like limited authority or variations of good cop/bad cop, that may prove effective in certain instances.

Many business professionals rely on their lawyers to lead particular negotiations not just due to their legal knowledge but also due to their experience and expertise in negotiating and in working within an agency dynamic.

Explore mediation.

Sometimes you may hire an expert, retain a lawyer or agent, and still run into major problems due to emotions, relationships, personalities, etc. If so, you and your counterpart might mutually explore hiring an independent third party mediator to help manage the process.

Trained mediators can guide your negotiation around the expected pitfalls and into areas where you can find common ground.

It’s no coincidence that mediators are commonly used to help couples going through a divorce, especially if there are kids involved.

These are some of the most difficult and challenging negotiations for everyone.

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Marty Latz is the founder of Latz Negotiation Institute, a national negotiation training and consulting company, and ExpertNegotiator, a Web-based software company that helps managers and negotiators more effectively negotiate and implement best practices based on the experts’ proven research.  He is also the author of Gain the Edge! Negotiating to Get What You Want (St. Martin’s Press 2004). He can be reached at 480-951-3222 or Latz@ExpertNegotiator.com

ICLEF • Indiana Continuing Legal Education Forum, Indianapolis, IN

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