Talk: Transparent Advocacy
Transparent advocacy minimises information asymmetry and increases persuasion. Advocacy here is the reminder that an opportunity to talk is the opportunity to persuade – via clear communication.
Advocacy should not be too assertive – this may come across too strong and border aggressiveness. It’s better to say what we want or what we don’t want in a transparent way to reduce resistance.
Advocate for a Joint Venture Pursuit
We’re not in a court where the person speaking is the same person not listening or learning, leading to two monologues and a bargaining frame.
Recognising and expressing emotions consistent with a message (a strong indicator of a party’s intentions) reduces resistance to the message. If anything – the appearance and behaviour of the good negotiator should be that they are open to persuasion if the best solution requires it.
Acknowledging or agreeing with the other side’s valid ideas leads to at least some reciprocation. It’s OK to have a different interpretation of the facts both parties agree on.
Information asymmetry means that neither side’s story is individually complete – and good communication creates a coherent joint story. The one thing that harms building this story is using the word “but”, which erases the goodwill created in discussing the topic. (A common recommendation is using the word “and” instead to make the argument more inclusive.)
When another party proposes something seemingly negative, the impulse is to say ‘no’. This is an early commitment (refuse to make a deal), which limits learning (why does the proposal look like this) and excludes possibilities (can a proposal be accepted in part). Some proposals are crazy, but some can be salvaged by learning more.
Speak to persuade them
Arguments should not attempt to persuade the speaker, but rather – the listener, and we need proactive learning to understand how to transparently frame the points, what items to focus on (professional, cultural), and use examples whenever possible.
Introducing what one wants to say helps avoid ambiguity and focuses on the desired interpretation of what’s being said (“… I want you to understand that …”). Sharing intentions (or lack thereof) behind a statement is also a persuasion technique.
Synchronising interpretations (since each party thinks their interpretation is the most complete and logical) can be done via an invitation for a corrective action (“Does my interpretation make sense to you?”).
Persuasion as part of value creation can only succeed if the party doing it is consistent.
It’s much healthier to avoid being positional if one thinks of information asymmetry as a source of disagreement.
Ladder of Inference
It’s ladder where the bottom rungs represent the data (sensorially perceived or rationally selected), and as we go up it turns into the interpretation and then – conclusions. Each party climbs this latter independently.
This visualisation helps understand that many negotiators communicate on the conclusions level. And obviously this is leading nowhere. So here are the steps to do it right.
1/ Set up the ladder. Politely refuse to proceed with the current conversation (as it’s not going anywhere constructive) and invite another party to start a new conversation. “I would like to better understand your point of view, so could you please tell me more?”
2/ Climb down the ladder. Moving from positional disagreement to the rationale and data that supports both parties’ conclusions. Proactive learning. “Why are you interpreting this fact this way?”
3/ Get to the bottom of the ladder. Ask clarification (“How did you arrive at this conclusion?”) and confirmation (“Is it correct that (providing a statement) …”) questions to improve the understanding of the big picture.
4/ Getting recognition that both parties are at the bottom of the ladder. Proactive learning is over, time to start persuading. “Do you think I understand the way you see this problem?”
5/ Prepare the other party to climb the ladder. Ask conducting questions to prepare the other party to listen to us (a process commitment against interruptions or diversions). “Would you like to learn how we see this situation?” This takes time for another party, because even preparing to listen and be persuaded is not easy.
6/ Climb up the ladder. Introduce what will be said or shown. Carefully and precisely describe the big picture or the context. Share the data and see if there are discrepancies and perceived differences. Then show the how the interpretation was done to arrive at the conclusion. This is a conflict- and criticism-free way of discussing important topics and maybe righting some wrongs, too.