How and why to pause when negotiating or confronting

by | Mar 11, 2019 | Tips | 0 comments

Two of the high-level skills that we can develop as business owners and entrepreneurs, is around how to have ‘Positive Confrontations’ and how to negotiate effectively.  

Many of the skills related to negotiating also relate to conflict resolution, as both forms of communication are intending to come to some resolution for all involved, that is acceptable to all parties. 

Immediacy

Yet in the instant gratification mode of today’s world, we want answers right away and often push others and ourselves to get to the end point prematurely.

When we want to resolve something effectively, it’s is important to remember that we are probably ready to discuss the issue, and so we expect and wish to complete the conversation and have a resolution there and then. 

Yet the person we are approaching is likely to not be in the same place as us.

It is similar with negotiation- we know what we want and so we assume that in our first attempt we will get to the final decision.

Well, if that happens, that is great for all involved and the stars must have aligned in the right way at that moment.  From my experience though, the significant issues take a bit of time to resolve positively and may involve a string of conversations.

Ready or not?

 The thing with conflict is the other person may not be ready for the confrontation or might not even know that there is a conflict, as they are not aware that they have done something wrong in your eyes.

 And with negotiation, there are often many complexities to the matter, and so others might need to be consulted or brought into the discussion, in order to find a way forward.


Tips for Time-outs

Therefore, to be most effective when confronting or negotiation, here are some points to keep in mind about pausing during these conversations

1. Preparation for all is needed

  1. In order to have a positive confrontation or negotiation, we should always do some preparation and make sure we are aware of our intentions for having the discussion, and what we want out of the conversation. 

 This allows us to give some thought to how to present our point of view so that it can be more well received and therefore more likely heard. If the other person cannot hear us, we are less likely to understand each other.

 To confront means to bring a person face to face with an issue, which by the very nature of that action, can be emotional and evoke a defensiveness in the other person. Even negotiating can feel threatening to us, as we have high hopes and are concerned that we could lose out or be taken advantage of.

 Hence a way to have these kinds of conversations constructively, is to let the person know that you would like to discuss or negotiate a specific issue and then ask the other party when a good time for them would be. 

 This allows them to have some time to prepare themselves both emotionally and around what they want. Thus, when you do meet to discuss, they would be less likely to feel under attack, and would come more prepared for a constructive conversation.

2. Allow for Time-outs

When things get heated, some people freeze and close up, or go into flight mode and flee.  Others go into attack mode and become pushy. This is the biological flight-fight response of our nervous system that is designed to protect us when we feel threat.

In those moments of feeling in danger, we are unable to act in our best interests as we lose our rational and critical thinking ability. Literally, the blood flow changes in our brain and our frontal cortex, that allows us to be rational and think clearly, gets less blood and rather the lower and more instinctual ‘reptilian’ brain gets more blood flow.  In this fight-flight mode, we are less able to think on our feet at the moment, and we do what can be seen as irrational responses in order to protect ourselves.

 Often what is needed is just a short “time-out”. Just saying something like “I am feeling a bit overwhelmed by our discussion right now, could we take a 5 minute break?” is a great strategy that allows us to catch our breath and shift out of the biological flight-fight mode.  We then feel less threatened and thus get access to our frontal cortex’s higher level and critical thinking ability again. 

 We’re then able to tackle the heated topic from a more resourceful place and are more likely to come up with a better resolution for all involved.

 The same is true for if we see the other person is appearing to become more emotional and upset in the moment. Suggesting a time out will allow them to regroup and bring their best selves back to the negotiation table.

3. Contract to pick up at a later time when needed.

Sometimes also, one of the parties might need to get more information or think through what has been presented to them. So a postponement of the discussion would allow all involved the needed time to process. This type of time-out might be for a few hours, days or weeks, and not just 5 minutes.

It’s important then to allow this time, but not to leave things hanging in the air. To manage this effectively, suggest a time and date as to when you both agree to pick up the conversation again and continue the discussion.

 And then follow up at that time and take the next steps.

4. Be comfortable with the uncomfortableness

Some of the most effective negotiators and conflict resolvers I have seen in action, have been those people who are ok with not knowing.

 They are patient and know that a resolution will be achieved, yet they are willing to go through the process – sometimes a long process – to get to the best option for all involved.

They have developed the ability to be comfortable with the uncomfortableness of things being unresolved, and with not knowing the final answer immediately or quickly.

So, a key aptitude we can foster in ourselves is to develop our capacity to be with not knowing. The more we are comfortable with being uncomfortable in these discussions, the more the focus shifts off our distressing feelings, and onto the process of finding a win-win for all.

Part of this capacity building is to be able to differentiate between what is unhealthy and literally dangerous to us, versus what is just uncomfortable because there are emotions involved and a complexity in people’s understandings. 

Something what helps me is to remember that confusion is just before breakthrough.  When we are unsure about what is going on, I know to keep going as it is just a part of the process to get to a point where we will gain the clarity needed. I just need to stay open to listening and ask questions to check assumptions and improve understanding.

Conversations that count


Time-outs, pauses, and the uncomfortableness of not knowing are just part and parcel of important conversations. 

These types of discussions count because if we work through the process, we are more likely to come to valuable conclusions and workable resolutions, and get the best deals for all involved.

When we can do these conversations positively, it can grow our relationships. And that is what counts in terms of all of us becoming more successful.

Here’s to us all having more of these conversations that count!

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