by Dr. Piotr Jednaszewski
Teaching negotiations can be compared to teaching communication, that is developing such abilities as: speaking and listening - understanding a foreign language. It could be said that negotiations are just more goal orientated forms of communication.
Even the best prepared negotiators with regard to product and company presentation in all assumed and pre-assessed aspects of further international talks can fail through the lack of understanding the other party. The following is my definition of understanding based on research, talks with EFL teachers and negotiations with people from over 40 different countries all over the globe.
Understanding is based on the ability to follow and remember in the logically and individually organized way the heard pattern of symbols, words and phrases, in other words - all that is planned to be conveyed by the speaker. In short, understanding is based on the ability to link the received information logically.
On the contrary, misunderstanding comes with the lack of or inefficiency of such ability regardless of the source. Whereas the source may come from such factors as: false analysis and interpretation, personal over or underestimation of presented information and much less trivial factors like lack of understanding vocabulary, phrases, idioms or certain cultural or socio-cultural aspects deeply engraved in different societies all over the globe.
We teachers and lecturers of English as a foreign language negotiate with our students their engagement in different language projects, communication games and preparing them for final exams. We do also make them aware of English phrases and idioms, colloquial expressions and English culture. Hence how many of us realize that those well trained students might find it difficult to negotiate while meeting people from utterly different cultures, for whom understanding the same language. English, is more than a platform to convey words and ideas.
Coming back to the core of the article 'How to teach negotiations?', we should always bear in mind that there are a some aspects to be aware of while preparing students or managers for any type of negotiations:
All of the above mentioned aspects of negotiations can be broadly discussed. Whereas, I decided to present in this article the LINGUISTIC aspect which comes from the individual linguistic knowledge and ability to use it. Therefore it happens that people from lower to upper intermediate levels can make better negotiators than those having a higher language proficiency. Why? The answer is: SIMPLICITY. The more simple and transparent our language is, the better chance for being well understood. How many times does it happen that during the conversation and listening to someone, you are not really sure what he is saying, still understanding the words and phrases. Bankers and Financiers are often surprised during my negotiation lectures and workshops that difficult issues can be presented and discussed in a simple and approachable manner. Therefore, the art of communication is SIMPLICITY.
How to teach language simplicity?
Present to the group, a short but linguistically complicated text and ask them to transform it into the simplified form, and then ask them to present it as their own.
Three multiplied by four equals twelve.
Simplified: Three times four is twelve.
Presentation level: If you have three times four, than you have twelve.
In the third sentence we achieved not only simplicity but personalisation. The listener becomes involved and is a part of the communication process.
The same strategy refers to convincing the foreign shareholders to the changes in the company organization chart or final contract closure with the other party.
SIMPLICITY and QUESTIONS
The shipment and insurance are carried by your party whereas we adopt the packaging to your company policy and give you 3% discount on orders over 7000 USD monthly.
You pay for the shipment and shipment insurance. We will adopt the packaging so you have your company logo and colours on the products. We will also give you 3% insurance if you order for more than 7000USD monthly.
This is too long and other party is not involved in the communication. Students learning to negotiate should also acquire the ability to have the other party constantly involved in communication process, and that can only be achieved through putting the right questions in the right place and time of negotiations.
Let`s look again at the simplified form which I have divided into two parts:
You pay for the shipment and shipment insurance.
We will adopt the packaging so you have your company logo and colours on the products. We will also give you 3% insurance if you order more than 7000USD monthly.
Changing this into question forms the above confirming presentation evolves into confirming communication:
A: Let`s recap all issues we agreed on, right?
A: We will change that packaging for you, fine?
A: We will put you company logo and the colour, fine?
A: We will send you the new packaging samples for assessment and if all is fine we will start production, yes? (with a smile)
A: You pay the costs of shipment and shipment insurance, right?
A: And we will give you 3% discount for every order above 7000 USD monthly, right?
As you can see, all the above questions are closed questions that have a positive impact. There are no questions giving space for any diversities and last minute changes. Moreover the other party is involved in the conversation and feels positive because of the positive answers.
NO QUESTION TAGS
Just a few words - why not to use such forms as: We agreed on that, didn`t we?
BUT: We agreed on that, yes?
Teaching grammar and negotiations do not always mean the same. The variety of different cultures and language level of negotiators indicates that we should always use safe forms, that is the forms to which the answer is exactly as expected. Simplifying that, what would the negotiator say after putting the question:
We agreed on that, didn`t we?
And having the answer: Yes, we did. or Did we
as in many cultures regardless of understanding, confirming and nodding is the form of showing the respect to the other party.
Another vital question is how to train and develop understanding of the scope and complexity of the message delivered by the other party. It seems trivial when the message delivered by the other party is relatively small, such as: It was good to have your contract draft delivered before your arrival.
Trivial as we get the message: GOOD / HAVE CONTRACT / BEFORE YOUR ARRIVAL
But what happens if the listener gets a longer message: Mr. Yamamoto and Mr. Toshiko appreciate having the contract delivered due to your visit as we had the opportunity to go through the vital points and reanalyze within our teams some feasible solutions, applicable when agreed during our talks unless other alternative were presented.
Here managers get the mixture and understanding depends on how much of that information was logically simplified and linked in the receiver`s mind.
This ability is can be trained through working first with written and then aural texts. this can be done by marking the core issues as presented below, and then retelling what is understood:
Mr. Yamamoto and Mr. Toshiko appreciate having the contract delivered due to your visit as we had the opportunity to go through the vital points and reanalyze within our teams some feasible solutions applicable when agreed during our talks unless other alternative were presented.
Cutting the long story short a trained mind gets the message:
THEY / APPRECIATE / CONTRACT /before VISIT / OPPORTUNITY / TEAMS REANALYZED VITAL POINTS for SOLUTIONS / OR (unless) ALTERNATIVE.
Such exercises should be practiced again and again and again. The words and phrases can be remembered as symbols, words, logical patterns, personal visualization. We should teach how to pick up and join ideas whereas students should chose the best alternative, code for their mind as some prefer more abstract, picture-based linking, whereas others more mathematical formulas. However practice makes perfect.
Summarizing the linguistic aspect of negotiations we should remember that:
Simplicity and appropriate questions are the key to being well understood whereas understanding the others needs to be practiced through different types of simplified visualizations. In other words we are able to teach our students how to control the talks while controlling our mind and the mind works in symbols.
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