Thursday, July 12, 2012

10 Rules of Negotiation: The Fight Version

Everything is fighting...

I recently came across an article by Damien Holliday called  "10 golden rules of negotiating; learn how to improve your negotiation skills." The article was interesting, but I'm a pretty easy audience because this is a skill set that always impresses me. Every time I read about negotiating, the art of leaning things in your favor, I can't help but think about the concepts in a combative context. It's the fighter in me, I think about verbal de-escalation skills and how, in its very essence, self defense is a negotiation for your well being. Every fight is a hostile negotiation and sometimes the two parties are punching rather than talking. To prove that the principles are transferable, I will list the 10 rules as they were originally posted and translate them into a language that martial artists, fighters and operatives can appreciate.

1. Knowledge is Power
Originally intended to describe the importance of knowing your market and gathering information for a potential investment, knowledge is crucial when fighting as well. Training is gathering knowledge and practicing its application. When we fight, we have to evaluate the entire situation as well. The more information we can put together, the better our chances of survival. Is my attacker alone? Is he/she showing any habitual weakness or mistake? Are there any objects that they or I can use as a weapon? These are just a few of hundreds of details that can change the course of events in under a second.

2. Use Time to Your Advantage
In a real estate market, for example, time can play a huge factor in your negotiations. Often times, manipulating a deadline can do most of the work for you. This is also true in fighting, but that can be used both ways. If you find yourself in a self defense scenario, you need to establish control as fast as possible. The longer the fight lasts, the more damage you are likely to take. In a sport fighting context, this can result in injuries and a loss of brain cells. In a street fight, this can result in permanent injury or even death. You can even die of a knife wounds several minutes after winning in a self defense scenario! Time is a factor. Use it to drive your sense of urgency to solve the violent situation as fast as possible.
Possible exceptions of stalling for time are if someone's called the police and you want to wait for them to arrive or if you have friends that are coming to help. Otherwise, the faster the better.

3. Don’t just focus on price as terms and conditions can be equally as important.
The conditions of a major business deal is often just as important as the financial gain and sometimes even more so. When we're fighting, we know what outcome we want. That one's obvious: we want to win. Win can either mean winning a match or stopping the other from hurting us. Either way we want to beat the other person. The "terms and conditions" of the fight are just as important as well. If I have no regard for my attacker, then I want to win, but as fast as possible and taking as little damage as possible. If I'm working in security, sometimes I need to restrain a hostile person without harming them. The objective is still to impose my will on them, but with conditions. The terms are the ends to the means and sometimes those change drastically. 

4. Always make sure that nothing is traded without you receiving something in return.
Of course in business, as it mentions in the original article, staying neutral in a negotiation won't make it easier for you to establish any gains. Boxing has created the expression "they're trading blows", which depicts two men going hit for hit. That means with every hit received, one is given. This is a neanderthal approach to fighting, ensuring the one with the least amount of brain damage will win and both fighters can expect a shorter career and poor quality of life. In every exchange, make sure you come out on top. If you have to get hit, it should still benefit you somehow. When exchanging hits, make sure to be setting up the next move. Just like chess, you should move closer or gain leverage with every hit. 

5. Be prepared to walk away! As soon as you must have something it will end up costing you far too much.
This is mostly a lesson about not letting yourself become greedy. You need to be able to walk away from certain offers. Don't get fixated on some hypothetical ideal scenario, if it's going to cost too much then it's not worth it (by definition!). Once again, fighting is the same. Weigh your options at all times. If you can walk away, sometimes (if not always) you should. If you find yourself standing in a dark alley prepared to fight someone with a knife because they called you a name, maybe you've made a bad choice. Maybe you should get the hell out of there instead!

6. Always base your judgments on sound property fundamentals and not your emotions. Whenever a deal looks too good to be true, it probably is.
This will make sense to anyone who's ever shopped for groceries on an empty stomach or bet on their favorite team. Emotions get in the way and could your judgement. When we're fighting, we have to keep an objective mind. Don't make it personal. Even though someone is trying their best to physically harm you, getting mad about it won't help you solve the problem faster. Keep an emotional detachment and always try to think objectively. Also, don't rule out the ability of an experienced fighter trying to "bait" you out. This is when someone makes a mistake on purpose, making your next move predictable and then they capitalize on your response. If it seems too easy, it is. Fight smart, not excited. 

7. Throughout the negotiation process base your negotiation strategy on principles and not positions. Allow yourself flexibility and avoid locking yourself into positions and ultimatums.
If this doesn't translate into everything I've ever said about fighting then I don't know what does! Positions are important, but seeking them is almost exclusively a sports concept. In a street fight, you'll hit whatever is most exposed with the fastest tool available. You're in a hurry, act accordingly. Don't allow yourself to engage in a battle of position because then you're allowing your attacker to control the pace and direction of the fight, which is an outcome you obviously don't want. Refuse to participate, as my sensei always reminds me. 

8. Aim to be a firm, but reasonable negotiator
Replace the word "negotiator" with "fighter" and this one explains itself! I've been in a situation where I was forced into a situation where I had to defend myself from an aggressor and, when I got the upper hand, they started screaming and begging me to stop, even though I only hit them once! Remember that violence is sometimes an act of desperation, so it might be a bluff. Of course, you should always act accordingly when you feel threatened, but recognize when the threat has been neutralized. Don't be excessive. In a sport fighting scenario, like all sports you don't stop until the official tells you to, but when they do you stop immediately. Don't be that jerk who needs to sneak in that one extra hit to feel good about himself. When it's over, it's over.

9. If negotiations become heated for whatever reason, always focus on the problems and not the people.  Whenever you make an emotional outburst, you tend to give up some control.
Business rivals always run the risk of letting personal feelings affect their judgement. The same can be said for fighting. In sport and in reality, fighting will always feel personal, but reacting out of an emotional response will reduce your cognitive mind to its most primitive state. This is exactly what your opponent would want. This will accomplish two things: remove your most dangerous weapon which is your brain and allow them to control how you think and feel. You should dictate the terms. Stay focused on that and impose your will.

10. Always be consistent during a negotiation.
Stand your ground, both in business and in fighting! My professional advice is to do whatever you can to avoid a fight. However, once that line is crossed and you feel threatened, commit to the escalation as well. When the time comes to act, decide to see it through until its end. You don't decide that part though. You keep acting however your judgement deems appropriate until you feel safe again. Be consistent in your actions. Release any doubts, fears and signs of self pity when you hit that switch.

Jordan Bill
Fight or Die