What's the Price of Crossing boundaries?
When I talk to people about the problematics of the "take all you can" approach in negotiations, their mind often jumps to thinking of ethics - is it nice, is it fair to do that to another person?
Those who do not applaud and glorify "experts" who will trick the shirt off your back, often talk about whether a person deserves for it to be done to them, and what the repercussions are for that other person. Yes, there is a question of basic consideration in respecting a person's boundaries. Yes, it is damaging to a person to have their boundaries crossed over and over again. But - since you and your counterpart are most probably working together, living together, or sharing some kind of space - damaging their interests often means damaging yours.
Pushing or overstepping? Many life coaches or negotiation gurus like to give their followers tips and tricks on how they can get what they want from others. They talk about pushing past no, defying boundaries and using such affective persuasion that the person in front of you has no choice but to succumb to your efforts.
These "tips" are so often misused and abused, and not enough is said about the real damage they cause to work relationships, friendships and partnerships. Pushing a person too hard on a request they are just not able to fulfil doesn't just get you nowhere, it creates a damaging self-image and a reluctance to work together again. We tend to think negotiation is about money, but it is also about time, attention and resources. One example is overloading someone with work because they haven't said no. That "bonanza" feeling may be great at first, but it's just a question of time before you watch all tasks come crashing down when that person grows exhausted of their juggle act. Another example is our compulsion to "steal a moment" of our counterpart's time. We are bombarded with tricks to snatch the attention of others, whether they've agreed to it or not. You may feel triumphant if you managed to squeeze time out of a person who indicated they don't have that time to give you.
But there are prices to be paid for such behaviour in the long run. If your counterpart indeed lacked the time or capacity to pay full attention to you, expect to see that distraction express itself in their output. And using this tactic too many times on the same person may result in their utter reluctance to work with someone who wastes or disrespects their time.
Negotiation is like building Ikea furniture- if you have to force it, you're probably doing it wrong.
The right approach to boundaries Am I saying effective negotiation means simply accepting the first answer you are given? No. Good negotiation can mean exploring boundaries, challenging boundaries and stretching boundaries.
The best negotiation outcomes come from thinking creatively beyond what is in our comfort zone. That does not mean IGNORING boundaries or overstepping them, and this is true for our own boundaries as well as others. Boundaries exist for a reason. Ignoring them doesn't make those reasons go away, and failing to consider them could come back with a vengeance later on down the line, usually in the phase of practical execution. I like to use Ikea furniture as an allegory- If you have to use force to make it work- you're doing it wrong. We've all gotten to that frustrating point where those two pieces just won't come together, so we push harder. What does that do? Usually, brake the furniture in a way everybody regrets later.
Am I too pushy? My advice is not one size fits all. Some of you may relate to the feeling of being needlessly pushy when negotiating. Some of you may feel you are on the receiving end of boundary infringement. Yet others may feel like they are so afraid of coming close to pushing boundaries, that what I describe in this blog post seems like an implausible reality to them. I do encourage my clients to test and explore boundaries. I do think questioning the first no makes sense a lot of the time. When it comes to boundaries, a flexible mindset can be a wonderful way to achieve incredible outcomes. I do also urge my clients to consider when they have crossed the line and used excessive force, as this will more often than not result in negative outcomes for all.
See you next post!
Founder of Negotiatress