For many of us, negotiating a “deal” (or some other arrangement in which two parties seek an end result) can be incredibly stressful, impacting our emotional and physical health. It ranks right up there with public speaking on the “most feared” or “most want to avoid” lists.
And yet....why? Negotiation seems reasonably simple in theory. A win-win result, ideally, should sum up the goal. Unfortunately, in practice, too many people look at negotiation as a form of competition. One wants to walk away with a “win” that is a little (or a lot) more of a win than their counterpart’s.
In other words, Houston, we have a problem before we even start negotiating!
Finally, a well-known teacher from the worlds of yoga and business has given us his take on negotiation, and it’s a long way from the old school ways of shaming, tricking, betraying and even destroying your opponent (sometimes without your opponent even knowing it!). In fact, there need not be an “opponent” at all when one seeks to “connect, create and prosper,” as author Mehrad Nazari, Ph.D, puts it.
If you value your health, and the health of those you work with—as well as those you love—honing some new skills at negotiation may save your wellness from future episodes of anxiety and dismay.
Mehrad Nazari is a well-known teacher who has held seminars in yoga and/or negotiation for many years at noted “human potential” institutes such as Esalen and Rancho La Puerta. On September 25-28, 2016, he’s a keynote speaker along with his wife Michele Hebert (noted yoga teacher and author of “The Tenth Door: A Yoga Adventure”) at the Green Spa Network Congress in Winter Park, Colorado—an annual gathering of wellness professionals from the hospitality sector (hotels, spas, spa products, etc.).
Recently we asked Dr. Nazari why a gentle soul like him would take on the onerous task of trying to get people interested in such a negative topic...negotiation!
“Two years ago I was teaching a seminar in Lenox, Massachusetts. After the workshop I was talking with Richard Morgenthal, the founder Morgenthal Frederics, the luxury eyewear company in New York, and the subject of my book came out. He asked, do you want to put the word negotiation on the cover of the book? I replied, yes of course, it is the subject of the book.
“He said, ‘...but that is so negative!’
“Last month when I was speaking at Rancho La Puerta, a fitness resort and spa in Baja California, Mexico, a woman sitting in the front row, nodded her head, agreeing with Richard’s comments.
“Why does the word ‘negotiation’ conjure up such negative reactions? Is it illegal? Unethical? Immoral? What has caused our society and our education system to be so negative about negotiation?”
Was there a watershed moment when Dr. Nazari realized that people were teaching the “art” of negotiation all wrong?
“In 1992 I signed up for a two-day workshop on ‘negotiation skills’ in Coronado. By then I had finished a research study on negotiation and completed my Ph. D and my MBA. I was already teaching a course at the graduate level but I was eager to learn more and see what other teachers were presenting. I took courses at Harvard Law School and National Marketing Institute in Chicago, and many more. And now here came a famous name and self-proclaimed expert in negotiation to my home city
“The instructor opened up the session by saying, ‘Don't you ever accept the first offer!
If you want to the get a good deal act as if their offer is ridiculous.’
“Have you ever gone to a movie and in the first few minutes realized that you’d made a bad choice? And yet you kept sitting there hoping something would change. This was how I felt.
“The instructor gave an example: ‘Once in a negotiation I took the offer that was presented to me and tore it apart right in front of their faces to show them who is the boss! I jacked up the price by five percent, right there and then!’
“The more examples he gave the more painful it got for me.
“I wanted to get up and leave. My right brain kept saying this is not for you. Don’t waste your time. My left brain kept saying, ‘Mehrad, don’t be too quick to judge. Maybe he is setting up the plot.’
“Searching for a sympathetic response I looked around. But all I saw was a bunch of people robotically listening and taking copious notes to retain as much as they could. After all, those people were sent by their companies to learn these techniques.
“I waited for the punchline that never came. Instead I felt as if I was punched in my gut when he said, ‘Toward the end of your negotiation throw them a bone so they feel like a winner too; make it a win-win negotiation.’
"The instructor was not teaching ‘negotiation,’ he was teaching ‘haggling!’ Similarly, there are many negotiation books that are wrongfully teaching haggling and calling it negotiation.
“That did it for me. During the break I got up and took my materials and handed it back to the instructor and said ‘Sorry, this is not for me. I had assumed this was a negotiation course.”
If negotiation usually results in an experience so unpleasant it feels like a punch in the gut, we wondered why it isn’t possible to simply avoid negotiation in one’s life altogether? The answer made us rethink the term altogether.
“Let’s not forget that we are social animals, we are interdependent; we must negotiate in order to survive. We negotiate all the time — far more frequently than we realize — not just in business, but with our families, friends and neighbors, but rarely do we take the time to fine-tune our skills as negotiators. It is not taught at school. Even today it is not taught in most business schools, or law schools.
“We need to negotiate. But very few of us have been taught how to negotiate mindfully.
We are all interested in improving our lifestyle, making our life healthier. May I propose to you that healthy living requires a healthy relationship and, furthermore, a healthy relationship requires a healthy negotiation?
“I like to say, ‘It is important to know what we eat. It is equally important to know what is eating you.’ Just consider how much of our time, our mind, our emotion is invested in negotiation and imagine how your life would be if all your personal and professional negotiations were pleasant, productive and efficient.
“Then think: What would that do to your personal relationship? What would that do to your bottom-line in business? What would that do for your family, team, community, your nation, and our world?”
Is there a good example of your theory of Enlightened Negotiation, we asked. Dr. Nazari offered the following:
“A few years ago, my wife Michele and I returned to El Salvador. We had not been back in a few years, so we were looking forward to visiting many of our local friends, including two siblings in their late twenties, Carlos and Carolina.
“After a few days of being there, we noticed everyone in the village was referring to them as ‘the wise ones,’ even though there were so many older people in the village. We were curious to see how they had earned this reputation.
“Since our last visit their father had passed away and they had to deal with the division of their inheritance—a classic negotiation that generally would cause friction amongst the heirs.
“But Carlos and Carolina told me they remembered our conversation many years back about Enlightened Negotiation, which they have been practicing on a smaller scale. This was a perfect time, they thought, to apply it to the biggest negotiation of their life time: the division of the family farm.
“Let’s think about the options they had to consider: The first would be to just split the farm into two equal shares. Sounds like a fair and equitable negotiation, right? Yes, that is a classic example of a good negotiation, but not an enlightened one.
“This is how Enlightened Negotiation works and this is what they chose to do: they decided not to do anything for awhile and just walk the land side by side for a few weeks. That is the First Step of Enlightened Negotiation: taking the time to clarify our intentions. They talked about their goals, dreams, aspirations, passions, families, community and their life purpose.
“Carolina was passionate about making blue corn tortillas. She knew they were in short supply in the village and she knew she could make enough to support that demand as well as provide some to the neighboring villages.
“Carlos had a much grander idea. He had learned there was a huge demand for soy beans elsewhere and knew that he could export them to a major city for a great price.
“So after three weeks they created a new option: they decided not to divide the land. Instead, they would farm the entire land together, Carolina growing corn and Carlos growing soy beans. As a result of this agreement, they individually had more land to farm and had both increased their productions substantially.
“And that’s what they’ve been doing successfully for several years. They created the most thriving farming business, and their relationship became much closer and stronger.
“This was an ‘aha’ moment for the people in the village. Rather than going with the most obvious decision most would consider to be fair, or worse, not being able to reach an agreement and starting a family feud, Carlos and Carolina made the wise decision to create something noble that none had considered before.”
Inspired, we read the detailed chapters (‘eight universal laws’) in Enlightened Negotiation, and they offer a rich, engrossing book that details a way, as Mehrad puts it, “...of transcending the myopic vision of limited resources.”
“We can all tap into that inner desire of the human spirit to create something magnificent, something noble, something where the whole is bigger than the sum of its parts. I believe that human beings have a genuine desire to connect, create and prosper.”
And what is “wellness,” if not the desire to connect, create and prosper?