- What are their interests?
- What risks are keeping them up at night?
- What options might they accept, and what will they reject out of hand?
As important as these substantive factors are, there’s something that many negotiators forget to take into account. Negotiating well isn’t just about saying what the other person needs to hear; it’s presenting information in a way that resonates with the other person.
So many times we give an argument, pitch, or presentation to multiple people and there are wildly different results. An argument may be a hit in one meeting and evaporate in another; an explanation that leaves one person yawning will make another sit up and take notice. Sometimes this is the result of the content and diverse opinions about the merits of your position, but it can also be a problem of style. Even if the content is the exact same, targeting the presentation to the audience can make a tremendous difference in how well it is received.
A single target approach
Most people structure their communication around a single audience: themselves. Essentially, we tend to argue or negotiate with other people as if we were talking to ourselves, by using the kinds of arguments that we find persuasive and interesting. For example, I find scientific support for an argument very compelling, and tend to look for validation by experts when I hear a new proposal. When I try to persuade someone else, my normal inclination is to find and emphasize that same kind of validation. This would work if I were talking to myself, but when I’m working with someone else, it’s likely to fail. Every person you interact with has their own set of preferences, and it’s important to match your communication with those preferences.
Understanding another person’s style of communication is not always easy; it can be difficult to study the way they communicate in the middle of a negotiation. Therefore, communication experts have created a variety of different models which do that work for you. At Nexus Negotiations we employ the Commander, Thinker, and Visualizer profiles. These profiles focus on a few key personality characteristics to pin down how the other person likes to be persuaded allowing our clients to quickly and accurately determine how to communicate persuasively.
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- Are they a big-picture thinker, or detail-oriented?
- Are they more interested in emotional appeals or logical arguments?
- Do they care more about proof of past success, a solution that’s easy to implement in the present, or details of how the proposal will succeed going forward into the future?
- Do they care about what other people have done in this space, or are they focused mostly on their own situation?
Answering questions like these makes it easier to figure out how to structure a presentation or argument to be as persuasive as possible to your counterparty.
A broader approach
The best time to carefully tailor communication is when you’re working with a single counterpart, but most negotiations involve multiple people on the other side of the table. Diverse audiences have diverse reactions and this is where it becomes particularly helpful to have a good, structural model of communication styles.
Understanding the axes that drive differences in communication styles makes it easier to plan for diverse audiences, as well as for individuals whose styles are unclear. Consider the questions we posed above.
- Should you focus on the big picture, or details?
- Emotions, or logic?
- The past, present, or future?
When communicating broadly, do all of the above. As much as possible, make an argument that appeals to each personality type somewhere along the way, so that no matter how the other side likes to communicate, they’ll find something persuasive in what you’re saying. If you’re working with a large group, you want the big-picture thinkers and the detail people to each think you’re talking to them. A structural model makes this easier by giving you a few profiles to target.
We tend to negotiate with other people as if we were talking to ourselves. Studying communication styles helps flip that around, so that the other side of the table hears our message as if they were speaking it themselves.
Who Is Nexus Negotiations?
For over 20 years the Nexus Negotiations has been offering world-class negotiation training and consultation to organizations of all sizes around the world. With strategies, tools and techniques developed by Harvard Alumni, Nexus Negotiations workshops help clients create value at every step in the negotiation process. Nexus has consulted on over $160 billion worth of transactions while working with more than 150 of the Fortune 500 and more than 50 governments, and dozens of universities, agencies, military groups and multilateral organizations. A few clients include:
Nexus Negotiations is now taking these same proven strategies, tools and techniques and customizing them for situations that you face every day. We know how CEOs negotiate, so let us help you use the same strategies and techniques to get the most you can out of every deal.
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