How well can you listen?

Recently I had the opportunity to meet two very good negotiators within Hampshire, UK. They came to Southampton Solent University, to teach the PR and Communications class the art of negotiation. They used very interesting case studies, shared amazing stories and let us listen to some of their recordings. Their talent of sharing stories is breath-taking. However, except the excitement, I have remained with a few of their valuable lessons regarding listening and the importance of listening for an effective negotiation process. These are useful for our day to day life and especially within our work-space.



They started by showing us this diagram, which displays the basic listening skills. At the basis of it lays the EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE. One may ask what does this have to do with negotiating. However, listening is not just about catching the words, but understanding their meaning, being able to interpret them, to see the emotion within those words, and to assume the cause. In connection with the art of negotiation, being able to decipher the meaning of the words you are listening to, and what they are trying to transmit proves emotional intelligence.

The next steps would be to create INITIAL CONTACT and to establish some sort of EMPATHY and RAPPORT. These two steps are interconnected and they are vital in the listening diagram. We’ve been told by these professionals that sometimes if the people in distress did not like them, whether it was the way they looked, the way they dressed, what they represented, their voice, their stature or their body language, there would be no communication at all, hence no negotiation.


Applied in the workplace, for example, in an interview, this might be a main reason why it is so important to establish good appearances, for good initial contact. After this step, empathy and rapport is important in order to create some sort of understanding. In order to connect and show that you are listening, and moreover, understanding what it is said to you or required from you. In the case of a workplace, you must show rapport, so the employer can visualise you in the position, he/she can see that you understand and therefore can be a part of that organisation’s culture.


Establishing TRUST is another important part in a negotiation process; vital our negotiators said!. Obviously once the job was offered to you, that means that some sort of professionally trust has been already established. But when negotiating a salary for example, I don’t think trust has a major part. It is about what you can offer to the company, it is about what are you able to do, that others might not…how are you different. Basically: why would you deserve it?


I think in this case it is more like in sales really. You should see yourself as a product, and you should be able to explain why you are more expensive. Are you more experienced? Are you more adaptable? This leads to the INFLUENCE, PERSUASION and PROBLEM SOLVING step. This step is about being able to justify and prove everything you say! It leads in persuading the employer that you indeed deserve what you ask and it might solve your problem by having a positive response.

As mentioned in the previous blog post, follow the steps of effective negotiation and bear in mind to listen! It is at the basis of negotiation and communication. Obviously don’t forget what you transmit as well! It is as important!

So what do you think? Are you a good listener? Here are fourth grade students explaining the basis of listening:


Negotiation: asking the right question?

It seems quite obvious that effective communication is the key to negotiation but what about when you are negotiating from an inferior position? What about negotiating a job offer? Is it then all about communication?

Not quite! When negotiating a job offer various factors interfere in the process. Starting with the culture of the organisation you are trying to become a member of, and ending with the difference of interests between the employee and the employer, numerous obstacles can obstruct free communication.

Job-Offer-350x287Do your research!

Did you ever consider analysing what type of person you are negotiating with? Whoever that is, most probably will have a similar culture to the organisation. Theory suggests that members of an organisation have the same values, beliefs and attitudes and that is what creates the overall culture. Knowing inside-out the company you want to work for will give you the advantage to be methodical and to have a strategy. However, it would be wise to take in consideration all possible reactions and plan!

What do you want?

In order to be able to negotiate, you have to decide what exactly you want. Moreover, decide how close is what you want to what is being offered. If they’re not too close that means that the job is not for you or that you need a reality check.

A major factor in a negotiation process is you being aware of the interests of the opposite side. This leads to deciding your BATNA (Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement) and the other side’s BATNA. Why? This will give you an idea of how far you can push and will inform you of how much you can accept. Mind your and the other’s target point and resistance point.

Justify and persuade!


These are questions that cross a manager’s mind when dragged into a job offer negotiation. Hence, you have to answer them all, justify with true facts and persuade, persuade, persuade!


They don’t want to go through this process all over again. It is expensive, stressful and exhausting. Therefore, once they offered you the job (NOT DURING THE INTERVIEW), once you are ready and prepared, you can go for it. Use your instinct! You have nothing to lose. If you do not succeed, ask for a review!

If you have the patience and you are really interested in the subject, professor Deepak Malhotra offers 15 pieces of negotiation advice, followed by a Q&A session, at Harvard Business School. Check it out!

Better safe than sorry?

The conflict between the company assigned to be in charge of the Olympics security (G4S) and the British Government was a wide spread story; especially during last summer. My opinion is that there is no better example of poor communication, than this one! Trying to AVOID the conflict will not make the problem disappear and this is exactly the case. This example proves that the accommodating style in managing conflict it is not an effective problem solving strategy. Moreover it expresses that sometimes it is better to have an INTERACTIONIST approach, meaning to see conflict as positive.

imagesLet us put this case study in a nut shell for who is not fully informed.  G4S is a security company contracted by the British Government and assigned to ensure safety during the 2012 London Olympics. The company was suffering from a shortfall in security staff numbers and only admitted so on July 11, approximately two weeks before the start of the Olympics.  As a result the British Government was forced to send in army troops to cover the shortfall. The release of the story in the global media generated panic for the public, damaged the reputation of the British Government and of course triggered a crisis for G4S.

There were rumors and speculations around the story.  However the main blame was attributed obviously to G4S. Threats and apologies were made but the question was: How did this all start? Was it because of poor communication?

Here is a little video of a BBC interview with the G4S CEO describing the situation and offering apologies for the crisis: 

Theorists say that there are five dimensions to conflict. Considering the example mentioned above I think the main problem was G4S trying to AVOID a conflict and refusing to communicate the problem until the very last moment, which obviously made it worse. G4S tried to be ACCOMODATING, in order to maintain its reputation and the impression that they can handle such a problem, without asking for help. The solution was rapidly found and the COMPROMISE was made, but the situation only became a conflict because of the results it created.


The practical conclusion here is that AVOIDING CONFLICT does not necessarily bring the best results. Moreover, sometimes being ACCOMODATING just turns around and “bites” you. The solution might have been to take responsibility for the immediate outcome (a few bad stories in the media and some fired conflicts, probably at a smaller scale) and communicate the problems encountered rather than waiting and hoping that one can cope!

What do you think? When is the best moment to avoid a conflict or to be accommodating? Do you think the frustration can accumulate and become a bigger problem?