Everyday Negotiation

Everyday NegotiationI’m reading a book right now called Everyday Negotiation: Navigating the Hidden Agendas in Bargaining, by Deborah Kolb and Judith Williams.

It’s making me think about how negotiations are like marketing, how both might be changing because of social media, and how this is really good news for small businesses on the web.  I’d like to hear your take on it, too.

Negotiating as a zero-sum game

Traditionally, most people think about negotiating in terms of buying a car, or haggling for products and services in a confrontational, win-lose scenario.  Some people thrive on this sort of bargaining, while others fear it.

But is this really how negotiating still works?

Negotiating as connection and collaboration

One central concept in Everyday Negotiation is that many, many of our daily interactions are negotiations — not just sales and bargaining.  Another central concept is that recognizing this doesn’t have to make every interaction fraught with tension.  Quite the opposite, in fact.

Kolb and Williams suggest that connection and collaboration are the true keys to successful negotiations:

“People come together to settle differences, but how they feel about themselves and how they are treated determine how willing they are to work through these difficulties…{w}hen they feel undermined or unappreciated…communication chills and choices are cut off.  You prevent this reaction from taking hold by building a relationship with your counterpart and deliberately looking for connections between your interests and his or her needs.”

Negotiation = marketing

Let’s agree on that much, at least.  That marketing itself is a form of negotiating. Fair?

The way that marketing happens now on the web — the way it happens when it is done right — is changing the dynamic of distrust and positional tactics that used to govern the way we dealt with each other.  Companies are learning that openness, honesty, and human-shaped interactions are actually the surest way of “protecting their positions” (to use the old, zero-sum terminology).

Zappos.com comes to mind.  They changed the game of online shoes and clothes shopping, by closing the distance between what customers want and what they can give.

Comcast comes to mind, too.  They changed how hundreds if not thousands of people feel about them just through the human-scaled customer service they provide as @comcastcares on Twitter.  (I have personally been helped out of a power failure thanks to Frank Eliason, the guy at the other end of the Twitter account.)

(For an excellent discussion of the @comcastcares story, read pp. 105-107 of Trust Agents by Chris Brogan and Julien Smith.  They call it the “One of Us” effect.)

Now, how much does the One of Us effect sound like the old style of negotiating? Of marketing?

How do you connect & collaborate?

I work with lots of different types of small businesses that pride themselves on the human touch — artists and gallery owners, writers and small press publishers, musicians and local recording studios. They already know how to be human, how to do the one-on-one, how to be One of Us.

The difficulty usually lies in how to make that translate on the social web.  With so many trumpets blaring at you, telling you to BUY 10,000 TWITTER FOLLOWERS  or TRICK GOOGLE INTO RANKING YOUR SITE #1 it can be hard to hear the soft music playing in the cafe down the street.

And newcomers to this social media thing often think that they have to change how they do things, become more slick and salesy, if they are going to start making things happen online.

Not so.

My point is that you already know how to be human-shaped. You already know how to do the one-on-one. You are already One of Us. That’s exactly how you came to have (or want to have) a small, thriving business. You don’t have to change that aspect of yourself to make things happen online.

You have to amplify it.

“Deliberately narrow the distance between you and the other person, opening the lines of communication, and you increase the odds of becoming partners in a joint endeavor rather than contestants in a competitive enterprise.”

What do you think?

Quotes from:

Kolb, Deborah M. & Williams, Judith, 2003. Everyday Negotiation: Navigating the hidden agendas in bargaining. Wiley: San Franscico, CA

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