5 Rules for Recovering from a Negotiation Fumble

The January issue of Negotiation laid out a process for recovering from negotiation missteps.  Reading it, I realized that it’s quite similar to the model that I use for reworking a relationship breakdown. 

When you’re working with clients, you know that your business is on the line, so there are a lot of reasons to renegotiate the relationship.  However, when you’re dealing with a work colleague it’s a bit easier to let the relationship slide, even though you know eventually you’re going to have to work with that person again.  So what do you do to rebuild the relationship?  Here’s the mix of my ideas with those from Negotiation.

1. Remember that you only get frustrated with people who are important to you.  I never get angry at people who are irrelevant.  It’s always those who have skin in the game, who I need or who can create difficulty for me or my project.

2. Renegotiate the relationship ASAP.  My clients know that if I have any doubts about a misunderstanding they’ll get a phone call by the next morning.  The longer you wait the more difficult it gets to rework the relationship.

3. Don’t pretend nothing happened.  Ignoring the issue leaves the door open for deepening resentment, both your own and your colleague’s.  Accept some responsibility and apologize.

4. If possible, check out the situation with a trusted advisor who can help you regroup, and, preferably, knows your counterpart.

5. Cooperate on a solution.  Enlist your counterpart’s help in finding a way to turn your disagreement into an opportunity for connection.

Occasionally I hear the biblical injunction to not let the sun go down on our anger.  Some psychologists preach that.  I think that’s a bit too idealistic.  Most of us need at least a little space.  I tend to sleep on my fumble so I’ll have to time figure what my counterpart and I want out of the situation.  That will give me some ideas about protocols and scripts so that when I go back to the person, I’ll have some comfort about the discussion.  I don’t like going into tough conversations without some language to enable me to feel comfortable with any pushback I’m liable to get.

Well, what do you think?

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