Believe it or not the process for interrogating someone suspected of stealing $10 from a till and the process for interrogating someone who is suspected of embezzling millions of dollars are remarkably similar. The dollar value of the investigation does not drive the strategy. The facts of the investigation and the characteristics of the suspects drive the strategy. The same approach applies to negotiating agreements and closing sales.
Too many times negotiators, sales professionals, and interviewers let factors such as monetary value, peer pressure, previous conversations, or the seriousness of the situation influence their emotions and their ability to execute. Once these forces hijack our focus, people become distracted and may lose the ability to create new alternatives during our interactions. The best way to avoid this hazard is to create and adhere to a process.
Creating a process to follow during your conversation is like following a road map on a road trip. Sure, you would eventually arrive at your destination if you left your house travelling on a main road and heading in the general direction you needed to travel. However you would most likely take a few wrong turns, arrive later than planned and increase your stress level along the way.
When you create a road map for your conversations you are forced to anticipate your approach to sensitive issues, your counterpart’s likely reactions, and your subsequent responses. By anticipating how your interactions will play out, you are able to prepare more alternatives and create more comprehensive game plans. These game plans provide clear directions, increase our confidence and reduce our stress levels. Thus allowing us to think clearly, recognize unexpected opportunities, and reach our goals as planned.
Adhering to the process during your interactions takes the focus off the people and emotions involved and focuses your attention on the resolving the issues to reach resolutions. This, in turn, creates a collaborative atmosphere and allows you and your counterpart to build rapport. Once you build even a small level of rapport, you will be able to approach solution-based discussions as partners rather than adversaries.
Focusing on the process creates a sense of clarity during your conversations as well. When you rely on the process you spend less time thinking about your next move and instead focus on our counterpart’s responses. This allows us to observe more behavior, to be more thorough in our evaluation, and to integrate our observations into our strategy.
Finally, relying on a process provides objective opportunities for reflection and improvement. Instead of determined where you were right or wrong, or good or bad, you can identify where you strayed from the process and how it affected the outcome of the conversation. You can also reflect on the process itself to pinpoint the areas that were beneficial, and the areas that weren’t, which will improve your performance in your next conversation.
It is impossible to remove all of the emotion and unexpected possibilities from any conversation. However, when we have a process to follow we are more prepared calm, aware and consequently successful.