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The marrow in your spine

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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)

65 Integrity

If there is one essential attribute of a great negotiator, and a great human being, it is character. And if one essential attribute could be called the foundation or spine of character, it is integrity.

Integrity of character is not a negotiation strategy. It is a personal quality you either have or have not developed. It is intangible, yet palpable—a source of influence and force to be reckoned with in any circumstance. And it necessarily includes emotional and psychological integration and maturity. It is therefore an essential quality in a great negotiator.

Integrity of character is not easily acquired. It cannot be learned in a weekend seminar, earned like a university degree or diploma, or rehearsed like a theatrical routine. It is forged with great effort through a prolonged and successful struggle with your lower human nature in all its weakness, self-centeredness, and fear. It is developed and tested in ten thousand moments and decisions in life, when there is something at stake, and you choose to live according to your highest ethical values. Your ongoing efforts to live these ethical values and the consistency with which you do so; the congruency of your words and actions over time; and your ability to be honest, fair, dependable, and equitable with all people, in all circumstances, is the litmus test of your character. It is doing what you know to be right even though no one is watching but you!

As a negotiator, integrity of character is the sum of how thoroughly you prepare in advance, how honorably you perform in the negotiation, and how diligently you fulfill your responsibilities and obligations after the negotiation is concluded. Integrity of character is a significant factor in the long-term success of any negotiator.

Integrity of character shines through the personality, and is often felt as dignity, graciousness, gravitas, and as moral or spiritual stature. People intuitively respond to it with openness and trust. And this is often a decisive factor in a negotiation.

Illegal vs unethical

Integrity of character includes conscience, knowing the difference between right and wrong, and it consistently chooses what is right even at the cost of personal gain. Yet integrity of character always works to your ultimate benefit, just as the lack of it ultimately works against you. Dishonest negotiators win victories at the cost of their moral and psychological decline, and, inevitably, at the cost of their reputation, making any success they attain hollow at best.

Suppose in a negotiation you have a choice between hiding an issue of great importance to the other party or being totally candid. To hide the information is unethical but not illegal. You know the other party may take advantage of the information and use it to get a better deal at your expense. It is a clear choice between integrity and profit. What you do in this situation either develops or corrupts your integrity of character. These are the situations in which integrity of character is developed or rejected, one choice at a time.

Integrity of character gives you a big-picture, long-term perspective that allows you to negotiate honestly in good faith regardless of what’s at stake or how things seem to be working out in any moment. When you recognise integrity of character as the most reliable foundation to negotiate and do business from, you know that to sacrifice it for victory or profit is to sell your essential nature for fool’s gold.

Your needs are still validsuspended by crane

But integrity of character doesn’t mean putting the other party’s interests above your own or  sacrificing your needs to help them fulfill theirs. It doesn’t mean that you don’t pursue your objectives and goals with fierce commitment and passion. It doesn’t mean you naively answer every question and present every bit of information that may put you at a disadvantage in a negotiation. It doesn’t mean you do the other party’s homework for them, and tell them things it is their responsibility to know.

What it means is that living your ethics and values is a higher priority than mere profit. It means you don’t intentionally deceive, misrepresent, falsify, take unfair advantage, or violate established protocols, rules, or laws in order to win.

You do have an obligation to serve your own interests or those of your company. You do have the right not to volunteer information you are not required by ethics or by law to reveal. You have a right to say truthfully: “I am not at liberty to answer that.” And if the other party wants information that you are not required to tell them, they must obtain it elsewhere. If they decide it’s a deal-breaker, then you can decide whether to give them the information or abandon the negotiation. Your loyalty is to yourself first and foremost, and, if you are an employee in a negotiation for your company, then it is also to your employer as well.

As human culture and individual humans evolve, the primitive mentality of “winning by any means” and “winning is everything” gives way to a healthier ethical model that reflects the values of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. In that model, the full measure of character and success are only achieved as we evolve beyond primitive survival needs into the higher reaches of our creative and spiritual potential. In that model, for all these reasons, integrity of character has a higher value than a mere financial bottom-line. In the end, regardless of our profession, our well-being and happiness depend upon the integrity of our character.

When you have integrity of character, you can look anyone in the eye. When you have no integrity, you can’t look yourself in your own eyes in the mirror. And when your lack of integrity becomes known, as it inevitably will, no one will want to look you in the eye, or negotiate with you about anything. Therefore a sterling character and reputation is a great negotiator’s most treasured possession.

A Zen Buddhist story tells of an old Zen master talking to the temple gardener about a seedling in a tiny pot that will eventually grow into a marvelous tree. When the gardener tells the old master it will take the tree a hundred years to grow from the seedling to maturity, the master replies, “Oh! Then hurry! We must plant it immediately!”

Integrity of character is like this. It is developed slowly over many years. So, if you want to be a great negotiator and a great human being, don’t delay! Develop the integrity of your character every day!



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