My early mentor, the legendary decision scientist and author of numerous books, Howard Raiffa once said, “It is often easier to deal with someone who is acting like a jerk who knows what he wants than a seemingly pleasant person who doesn’t.”
1. Anticipate What You Want Out Of A Situation Before You Go Into It
Whether you have moments or days, decide on your top goal for what you’d most like to have happen in a situation. That gives you context. Otherwise you are more likely to project your own concerns onto the other person. Then you are less able to be fully present, listen and be open and flexible. That’s when one tends to react rather than choose how one wants to act. Plus, you are more readily able to recognize, sooner, that you want to change your top goal. This approach is especially valuable when we are communicating with someone with whom we have already had frequent interactions such as with spouse or colleague. It helps us get out of repeating past, destructive verbal scripts and other behaviors.
2. Know That Less Is Often More
Especially in the beginning, listen more, talk and move less, and keep your motions and voice lower and slower. These animal behaviors increase the chances that others will feel more safe and comfortable around you.
3. Go Slow To Go Fast
When you first meet and re-meet people, move and talk more slowly and obliquely. Give them room to “own their territory” and feel heard. Later you can be more direct and move quickly.
4. Act As If The World Is Going To Treat You Well
Look to their positive intent, especially when they appear to have none, and you are more likely to eventually bring out their more positive side.
5. Play With Your Full Deck
You have a wide variety of physical and verbal ways of behaving, from understated to outspoken, most of which you’ve lost after around fourth grade. Now you have a more narrow range of behaviors. “Play with your full deck” by using more “cards” — that is, be able to widen your range of behaviors to act more like the person you are with: voice level and range, kinds and number of body motions, and so on. When you are more like them, you will feel more familiar to them, so you can get “in sync” and they can feel more comfortable with you and what you have to say.
6. Step Outside Yourself To See The Situation As The Other Person Might
In many situations, especially hostile ones, we tend to:
• Focus on the best parts of how we are acting and the worst parts of how they are acting.
• Presume that when they act a certain way, it is for the same reason we have if we acted similarly.
These instinctual responses can cause misunderstanding and conflict escalation.
7. Refer To The Other Person’s Interests First
Practice the mutuality-boosting mindset approach to communicating to connect, dubbed Triangle Talk: refer to their interests first (you), then how the topic relates to a sweet spot of mutual interest (us), and finally, how it relates to your interests (me). The other person is more likely to listen sooner, longer, and feel that you are taking their needs into consideration in what you propose.
8. Act To Enable The Other Person To Save Face And Self-Correct
In so doing you are more likely to preserve the relationship. If you think they are lying, keep asking questions (until you lose control or run out of imagination) rather than accusing them of misrepresentation. Asking questions gives you the time to see if, if fact, you were mistaken, thus possibly saving face for yourself. If your suspicions prove correct, by asking questions, you are gently inquiring rather than blaming, thus allowing them to acknowledge a mistake or misunderstanding and save face. They are then more likely to correct the situation. You also leave room to escalate later if they do not acknowledge the error. “Assumptions are the terminates of relationships” Henry Winkler once said. For more insights on the upside of checking your assumptions, read the book, Mindwise by Nicholas Epley.
9. Speak To Commonalities More Frequently Than Citing Differences
Whatever you refer to most frequently and intensely will be the center of your relationship. Keep referring to the part of them and their points that you can support and want to expand upon with them.
10. Don’t Assume They Readily See The Picture You Are Presenting
Do not presume that the other person recognizes all the benefits of what you are proposing. Take time to vividly describe the benefits to them, in their terms.
11. Don’t Push Too Close
When considering how fast to move in to suggest a “final offer” or other form of agreement, lean toward moving slower, especially at first. The best results, as in making a Chinese meal, happen with the most time spent on advanced preparation and groundwork, so the final part goes most smoothly and quickly.
12. Have A Main Spokesperson
If there is more than one person representing you or your group’s interests, make sure only one person is responsible for taking the lead in discussions and that each person knows the content area and personality style they will represent.
13. Don’t Offer What You Can’t Accept
Do not bluff by making an offer you cannot live with if the other person accepts it. For example, in making an offer, do not include anything you believe the other person would find unacceptable and not accept. You might misjudge the person or the situation and find that the person does accept your offer.
14. Make Substantially The Same Offer A Different Way
Do not overlook the possibility of rearranging the same elements of an offer to find a more mutually attractive compromise. For example, in money, consider alternative timing and division of payments.
15. Stay Present
As many contests require, “You have to be present to win.” Keep grounded and involved in what is happening in the moment, glancing to the past and future only for context and balance.
16. Consider How You Say What You Want To Say
For example, a priest once asked his superior if he could smoke while praying, which led to a denial of his request. Yet if he’d asked if he could pray while smoking, he might have received a positive response.
17. Initiate And Keep Agreements
The more you take the initiative to facilitate a mutually beneficial agreement the greater the possibility that you will boost trust and spur them to act similarly in the future.