Negotiating Skills and the 10 Powers of Negotiation: The Critical Role of Lateral Thinking

Lateral thinking and the 10 Powers of Negotiation…

Does anyone doubt that men and woman are sometimes different — or that they sometimes view the world differently? Has anyone experienced how men and women can sometimes have different perceptions of the same event? Can anyone seriously dispute that men and women sometimes approach relationships quite differently? So, why is this? And why is this even remotely relevant in the context of negotiation?

To negotiate effectively, we need to use both sides of our brain. Left-brain people focus on logic, mathematics, rational thought, and black-and-white thinking. Approximately 90% of men in the world are left-brain dominated. Right-brain people focus on intuition, emotion and creativity. Approximately 90% of women in the world are right-brain dominated. To be effective negotiators, we must become lateral thinkers by learning to use both sides of our brain.

After spending more than 30 years negotiating agreements around the world and after researching Nelson Mandela’s approach to his historic negotiations with the South African apartheid government, I identified 10 Powers of Negotiation. These 10 Powers reveal the critical role of lateral thinking in the negotiating process by highlighting that negotiators need both left and right-brain skills. You will notice that some require predominantly left-brain skills and others require predominantly right-brain skills. But, to pull all the Powers together, negotiators require a combination of both.

These are the 10 Powers:

• The power of understanding that a negotiation is a process.

• The power of preparation.

• The power of positioning.

• The power of common sense and logic.

• The power of dignity, congeniality, humility and humor.

• The power of truth and fairness.

• The power of observation – of listening and seeing.

• The power of morality, courage and attitude.

• The power of patience.

• The power to walk away.

The advantages of lateral thinking…

Because lateral thinkers are people who have the ability to use both the left and right sides of their brain, they have significantly more insight into human behavior than those who are not lateral thinkers. They not only see unusual patterns of behavior that others might miss, they also have a more nuanced and layered sense of what is happening around them. Because of this, they also see more options for problem solving and have far superior problem solving skills than those who are not lateral thinkers.

And because the negotiating process is about identifying the problems each side is hoping to solve, the identification of the problems and finding different options and approaches to solving those problems lie at the very core of any successful negotiation.

Lateral thinking and empathy…

Nelson Mandela’s negotiating skills and experiences highlight the enormous importance of looking at every negotiation through the eyes of those with whom you are negotiating. He saw the enormous advantages that this can present on many different levels in a negotiation. His life is a remarkable window into his lateral thinking skills. It is quite fascinating how he honed these skills during his life and how he used them in his negotiations with the South African government.

When it comes to being able to see the world through the other side’s eyes, empathy is the name of the game. While it might be tempting to argue, using left-brain skills, that a position the other side is taking is “logical” or “illogical” or “black-and-white,” almost invariably the right-brain skills are far more telling and useful. Clearly, to get into someone’s head we need to tap into their emotional state and understand it. We need to tap into whatever intuitive skills we can muster. In doing so, we come to realize the enormous advantages most women have over those of us who are predominantly left-brain oriented.

This is why we either have to develop both left-brain and right-brain skills, or we have to assemble negotiating teams that possess these skills.

How lateral thinking exposes the risk of negotiating alone…

I’ve accepted that I’m a predominantly left-brain person. I think of myself as logical and rational — perhaps to a fault. I’ve also always accepted the problem that this almost inevitably creates — and the opportunities that I might lose as a result. I’ve therefore accepted the absolute need to work on my right-brain functionality. Unfortunately, what I’ve sometimes found is that, as I began to focus on my right-brain development, I often found myself taking my eye off my left-brain functionality. I needed to find a solution to this — and I did.

I decided that, whenever possible, I would never negotiate alone. Instead, I wanted at my side the smartest right-brain negotiator I could find — as well as the smartest left-brain negotiator to keep me focused. I would have to gather around me the smartest right-brain and left-brain people I could find. And because 90% of women are right-brain dominant, that was where I’d look for the right-brain part of my team.

As the 10 Powers of Negotiation highlights, negotiators have to keep their eyes on my different balls simultaneously. And as they have to observe and listen to the other side’s negotiating team, and particularly when that team is sometimes quite large, it is almost impossible to do this alone. To have a team of left and right-brain negotiators watching and listening and assessing what is happening is a huge advantage and will always yield a better result than handling this alone.

So, don’t be proud, folks. Gather together a team of the most skilled lateral thinkers you can find…