Thursday, March 27, 2008

Zen and Negotiation

I have not written for a while, having been busy both practicing law—mostly working with inventors to license their patents—and teaching seminars on negotiation.

Doing half a dozen seminars the past few months, I have been experimenting with titles and techniques. I have come to believe that attitude and affect are the most important things to bring to the table.

Books and teachers often teach tricks to use at the table, or clever parries. But this scripting carries a risk. What if you don’t recognize your cue when to use a trick or parry one? (Line, please.)

More important I think is to come to the table prepared mentally. At the least of course is being prepared with information about the folks on the other side, and with a good sense of what you need to bring away (not just a prepared “position” or demand and a fall back).

Scholars about the highest levels of negotiations—settling border disputes and avoiding war, and making high-value deals—know that is all about one’s own psychology, and maintaining self-control and self-awareness.

People familiar with the notion of Zen offer a way to do this, called “mindfulness.” At its essence, it means practicing the art of seeing yourself and your situation from outside yourself. It means seeing the whole picture, in its most objective way. It certainly means not demonizing the other people. And it means keeping your own balance when provoked.

Provocation is often not intentional, but simply the other side stating their needs, which do not match your own.

The best part is one does not need at all to become a Buddhist, does not need to adopt a religion, to become mindful. Nor for that matter to sit in a “lotus” position. One needs to study and practice.

Negotiation 101: Being aware objectively of the process and minute-to-minute changes of circumstance are key to negotiating successfully.