This is how you ensure you are heard
Negotiation touches every part of our lives. Relationships in business and in our personal lives are negotiated. And the skills to do it effectively can often mean the difference between getting what you want or losing out. You don’t get what you deserve, you get what you negotiate!
In the first section of the book, How to be a Great Negotiator, written by property economist, investor and developer Neville Berkowitz, the characteristic traits of a great negotiator are explored in short, bite-sized nuggets of advice.
Over the next 132 days, we will bring you the traits needed to succeed at the art of negotiating.
(Courtesy of PersonalEmpowerment.co)
According to well-documented research on verbal and nonverbal communication, spoken words constitute less than twenty percent of any communication process; fifty to seventy percent occurs through body language, and ten to twenty-plus percent occurs via intuition, or nonverbal, nonphysical, extrasensory communication.
In a nutshell, your gestures, your attitudes, and your being communicate far more than your spoken words. And when these various communication streams are incongruent, or even contradictory, confusion may result.
Has someone ever told you, “I’m having fun,” with his or her mouth, while that person’s facial expression and body language said, “I’m bored”? Or “I’m fine,” when the person’s tone, expression, and body language said, “I’m angry,” or “I’m sad,” or “I’m scared”? Have you ever communicated in this fragmented or contradictory way?
In any negotiation, what you say and the congruency of your overall communication reveal your level of integrity and determine the degree of trust, or mistrust, that you inspire. If you say the correct words to indicate friendliness, honesty, and goodwill, but you seem cold, aloof, shifty, distracted, manipulative, or greedy – or if your poor reputation has preceded you – what might have been a simple or friendly negotiation may deteriorate into an awkward, mistrustful, or unpleasant encounter that leaves a bad aftertaste in everyone’s mouths.
Communication is, as we have seen, both verbal and nonverbal. A later section in this book deals with nonverbal communication in-depth. But let’s take a closer look at verbal communication here.
Words have inherent meanings, but they only have power to the degree that they are effectively used. It’s not only what you say but how you say it. The right combination of words spoken in just the right way can convey deep insight, humour, irony, passion, excitement etc. They can soothe or disturb, wound or heal, flatter or offend, confuse or clarify. They can motivate, inspire, terrify, amaze, and conjure images or a vision in the minds of listeners. Mark Twain wrote that “the difference between the right word and almost the right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug”.
Below are some key elements to consider in terms of the art of effective verbal communication:
- Choose your words carefully. Precision is key. As Mark Twain knew, the right words are essential for the most powerful expression of the meaning you want to convey.
- Verbal economy. Keep it as simple as possible. Meanings can get lost in an avalanche of unnecessary words. Say what you mean as best you can and, when you’ve made your essential points, stop talking.
- The sincerity, clarity, and conviction with which your words are spoken magnify their meaning and serve your purposes.
- The quality and timbre of your voice can be a pleasing accompaniment to your message. You can improve the quality of your voice with practice.
- Perfect the enunciation, articulation, and emphasis of the words.
- Monitor the pace and rhythm of your delivery. Speaking too fast with too few pauses can make people uneasy or nervous. Speaking too slow, with too many pauses, can make them bored or impatient. Find the right pace and tone for you and for your audience in which to deliver your words.
- The pitch and volume of your voice are also important. You can project confidence and passion without being too loud. You can project thoughtfulness or sympathy without being too soft.
- Musicians say that half the melody is in the rhythm of the notes and the pauses between the notes. The same is true of speaking. Notice the rhythm and pace of your speech, and learn to pause in appropriate places to let your words sink in or to add emphasis.
- Avoid irritating vocal fillers like “like,” “um,” “err,” and “uh.” And notice any verbal tics or oft-repeated words or phrases you may use that others may notice.
- At times, emotively charged words, tones, diction, pace, and pauses can be used as a call to action. Dynamically spoken action words and phrases, generally prefaced with “let’s” and qualified with a powerful “because,” can instil a sense of urgency that inspires and motivates others to action. Linking your ideas or agenda to a greater purpose that your listeners may find compelling can often bring them over to your side.
- To persuade others, you should assume that they want to be led by you and your choice of language should be responsible, confident, and assertive. For example, use “when” rather than “if” and “we will” rather than “maybe.” Persuaders are doers, even if it means that they manage others to actually do what needs to be done. Persuaders say, “We will get this done by such-and-such a date,” or “I’ll personally ensure that X, Y, or Z will call you today on that issue.”
- When speaking with people outside your specialised field, minimise or avoid using industry- related acronyms, jargon, or language laced with technical terms. These make it hard for them to understand and follow your points, and you may lose your audience. Industry-speak is best reserved for insiders only.
- Avoid using profanity, overly casual speech or slang, or deriding your competition with petty or contemptuous attitudes or language.
- Use encouraging, inclusive words, personalising the audience with “we,” “us,” “our,” and “you and I”. When talking directly to one or more individuals, use their names and make them feel included in your team and your vision.
- To be inclusive when persuading, use “and” rather than “but” and “let’s” rather than “you must”. Carry them along with your passion and enthusiasm. Most people want to be benignly led, and benign leaders are in short supply.
- Avoid unclear, obscure, pretentious, or abstract words and language, as you will lose your listeners’ attention through lack of understanding or loss of rapport. Simple clarity is the soul of eloquence.
- Do not lecture or talk down to your listeners from a “superior” position. No one likes a pompous, pretentious, arrogant know-it-all.
- Never attack, antagonise, or personalise a disagreement, or you will escalate it into an unpleasant, unproductive, even bitter argument, or an outright rupture. Use your words to genuinely explore and challenge concepts rather than people personally. Inflammatory and provocative words may feel briefly “satisfying,” but they can destroy in moments plans, relationships, and potential you’ve worked weeks, months, or even years to develop. Always remember that the tongue can cut sharper than the sword and be remembered forever.
- Some words create barriers to action, and some words facilitate or induce action. For example, people feel intimidated by contracts, lawyers, and small print. Saying, “Are you ready to sign the contract?” has an intimidating finality that may stimulate subtle apprehension or resistance in the other. But introducing the contract with, “So, here’s the necessary paperwork; why don’t we look it over?” sounds much more relaxed and less intimidating. While “looking it over” together you can casually point out the places where they “sign the contract.” And you can usher them through any residual reluctance to sign by saying in a helpful way, “You’ll need to press hard since there are three copies underneath.” In the same way it helps to refer to objections and problems as “areas of concern.” The idea is to find suitable euphemisms to replace charged words and describe intimidating issues and potential obstacles.
- When presenting numbers and percentages, prefacing them with the words “more than,” “almost,” and “as much as,” makes them sound more impressive. When you want to diminish or play down the importance of numbers and percentages, preface them with words such as “fewer than,” “no more than,” “under,” and “even less than.”
- Two words every good negotiator and advertiser knows to use frequently, besides the other party’s name, are “free” and “now.” Other words that grab attention and motivate action include: benefit, children, easy, fun, guarantee, health, immediate, improve, love, results guaranteed, save money, feel better, safe, scientifically proven, you, your, and yours.
You can practice and improve all the elements of dynamic, articulate, persuasive speech. Record yourself speaking, then listen to and study how you sound, and make specific adjustments and changes in your speaking tone, pace, inflections, and delivery. Practice speaking to improve and refine these elements until they become your natural and comfortable speaking style. Increase your vocabulary with selective reading designed to challenge and expand your current vocabulary. Study various speakers who are at the top of their fields, and practice and apply things you hear in them that impress and inspire you.
Learn to use words to paint pictures in your listeners’ minds, to allow them to vicariously share your experiences and insights. Whenever possible try to engage all the five senses of sight, smell, taste, touch, and hearing to create this vision and for the listener to experience all the sensations. They must see it, smell it, taste it, feel it, and hear it as vividly as possible, so that they participate in whatever you want them to do.
Your ability to communicate clearly, knowledgeably, honestly, compellingly, confidently, and respectfully will put you in the coveted category of great negotiators.