Admonishments should be short. So today’s blog posting will be.
When our counterpart asks for something that might take money out of the landlord’s/tenant’s/lender’s pocket, it isn’t our pocket. It’s not personal. A $5,000 a month, 10-year lease involves $600,000 of basic rent. A $5,000 request for something by a landlord’s representative or by a tenant’s representative is a pretty small request in a $600,000 contract. It is 0.8333%. More importantly, it is one month’s rent and a fight over it for no reason can cost that month’s rent anyway. MOST IMPORTANTLY, it is the principal’s money and that is who should know about the request and decide whether “to do it.” It’s one thing to say “No” as if it is our money and another to say, “I’ll ask my client/boss/principal (but I’m doubtful she will agree).”
It seems to us that the object of negotiation is to works things out, not to defend the form or demonstrate how resolute we can be. Yet, we all fall into that trap.
The prescience we and our colleagues often display is quite impressive. We often know the answer before hearing the question or request. How often have any of us gotten the impression that the only reason “the other side” is listening to the reason the document should read one way or the other is to know when we’re finished so that the pre-planned “No” can be released? And, don’t most of us do that, at least “sometimes”? When that happens, and it seems to happen all too often, it is as if the explanation for a request doesn’t matter. Yes, “one size fits all” seems to be the order of the day.
After re-reading that last paragraph, it occurred to Ruminations that we left out another common occurrence – the one where the supposed listener doesn’t wait to hear all that’s to be said before saying, “No.”
And, the request (with its accompanying explanation) isn’t for us (unless we are the principal). It is for the person with the pocket-book who asked us to facilitate the deal. So, why are we so quick to kick out the same response for every principle we represent? Are they all of the same mind? Or, is it our own “mind” we are seeking to satisfy?
There’s a big difference between listening and hearing. Listening takes time; hearing takes effort.
Speaking of “hearing,” here’s a true story (experienced more than a few times) about “having the answer before the question is asked.” You buy something for $6.50 and hand the clerk a ten dollar bill, expecting $3.50 in change. Instead, you get $4.50 back. So, you say, “I think this is wrong.” What do you hear in return? – “No, it’s not, you gave me a ten dollar bill.” Then, you say, “Yes, but you gave me too much change.” What has happened is that the clerk had the answer set in stone before the question was asked. All too often, negotiators do the same thing.
It’s not personal. No one has to say, “Yes” and no one has to say “No.” But, let’s HEAR what each other have to say before forming our answer, let alone before actually answering. And that doesn’t mean listening just so as to know when to give the answer you already had and knew you would never change.
“My way or the highway” makes for a very unpleasant and dragged out experience. It costs everyone time and money. And, as all readers know, at the end of the day, most deals are made, not broken. So, if you are going to get there anyway, why not take Pleasant Valley Way?
We were going to sign off at this point because either we’ve made the point or not. But, we were reminded about a particular bank assistant manager who stands out in our mind. Retail banks have a lot of rules and there isn’t a lot of flexibility granted to branch employees. So, often the answer, at the branch level, needs to be “No.” What makes this particular assistant manager stand out in our mind was that when she had to say, “No,” she was always able to do so in a way where the customer would understand and say, “Thank you.” It seemed that she had a way of making every customer feel as if they had been HEARD, that she understood the request, but that the answer had to be “No.”
If you were on vacation at all over the past two weeks, you might have missed one or both of our pretty well-received blog postings. In that case you can still see them by clicking HERE (Exclusive Use Restrictions) and HERE (Consents to Assignments).