How Master Negotiators ‘Get Bigger’

From the time of inception, we began to change.  To say that being born; that coming out of baby and childhood was hard work, vastly understates the case, for the hurdles each one of us had to overcome were simply astounding.  Generally however, between the ages of two and three, you and I had learned how to roll-over; sit-up; stand; talk; feed ourselves; walk; run; jump; recognize the alphabet; and remember songs, numbers, which dogs on the street bit, and which children hit.  And through it all: through the stumbling and falling, through all the trial and error, we somehow managed to hold onto our humour, dignity, and courage; and we got bigger. ‘Getting bigger’ was what mattered. It was a goal worthy enough to keep us going through it all.

And we made it.  We got bigger. We became adults: practical, dependable, conscientious, mature adults who were filled with those or similar traits.  Traits society reveres. Traits developed through years of hard work.  Change them?!  No; better to close off than to risk becoming less than admirable.  Better yet to become averse to risk itself…even though it is a key factor in innovation; even though it brings such positive and significant impacts to business; to art; to the world.

However, some of us risk/risked walking away from the roar of the crowd.  Think of Frank Lloyd Wright’s ability to incorporate Asian architecture into his work; Christopher Pratt’s decision to finally paint faces; Angela Merkel’s adaptability in bringing Germany out of recession; Paul McCartney’s attempt to write a symphonic composition.  [Okay; so it wasn’t wonderful, but that’s not the point.] The true skill is that these people kept themselves open and risked changing.

People who risk staying open to change aren’t just those who have achieved fame and fortune; they’re everyday people like you and me.  But even though they’re not famous, they’re also not difficult to spot, for they seem to have a fullness; a wideness about them—a welcoming manner, whether it’s to a new idea, or to a different way of seeing or approaching a situation.  A lot of artists and musicians possess that quality.  And a goodly number of parents.  (And let us say no more about the qualities that must be employed during the terrible two’s or teen years.)  Many business-people also share the trait, too…particularly those who are skilled negotiators.  Whether in a discussion between two countries; two companies; or two people, a skilled negotiator’s openness is apparent, and the agreements they reach with others show it.

They are known as Master Negotiators.

Because of their openness to changing ideas and different perspectives; Master Negotiators are also able to pick up the nuances in a phrase or gesture.  They keep an ear cocked for the unspoken words—the thoughts that flow back and forth during any discussion.  They’re open to the whole experience. And often, it’s that openness that encourages others to negotiate in the same spirit.

True; they like their share of ‘sameness’ and predictability like others do.  They like knowing the bus or train is going to arrive at the same time everyday according to a pre-set schedule, or the fact that a colleague or partner is going to handle a task so they can focus on their own responsibilities.  But because Master Negotiators value openness so highly, they employ an interesting device.  They ‘shake it up.’  They shake up sameness.  They leave for work at an atypical time; eat dessert before the entrée; take off the knitted hat and slap on a béret; or sign up for jive lessons.  Now, I’m not suggesting you abandon all your comfort-zone traits; I’m merely saying that if you’re stuck in sameness and would like to open yourself up to change, you might begin the process by shaking up something small in your life.  Don’t pick something too big for you (like that darned béret I snatched off after half a block); pick something manageable.  And if you feel too foolish trying one thing, pick another.  And if you still feel anxious, just remember what it was like when you were a little kid with all the openness and courage in the world…wanting nothing more than to ‘get bigger’.

Written by Penny Steen with contributions by Peter Hiddema

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