We were recently in a meeting talking about some of the work by Roger Fisher and William Ury on the Harvard Negotiating team. Many of you will know them from their 1991 book, Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In.
In that groundbreaking book, the authors introduced a new way to think about negotiations and difficulties. Where we once thought of winners and losers, they proposed identifying options for mutual gain, separating the people from the problems, and focusing on interests rather than digging in on positions.
As we were talking about this shift in perspective, our client—knowing we're always looking for the core nuggets that help people grow and change—asked us if there's a simple way to start to make this shift in negotiations and discussions that are challenging.
Today, we’d like to help you make a shift in how you approach negotiations, difficult conversations, and even performance feedback. Stand shoulder to shoulder.
Take a moment to think about how it feels when you’re in an important conversation with someone and it feels like you’re on one side and they’re on the other. You can almost have the feeling that when they talk, they're poking a finger at your chest and you’re doing the same in response.
Now, imagine, in the middle of that conversation, shifting from across from one another to standing shoulder to shoulder—looking together at the problem or issue or opportunity.
Shoulder to shoulder puts the two of you on a team, exploring how to move forward in a way that’s good for both of you. It changes from an issue between the two of you to a problem you face together, and it helps you consider both of your interests in creating the result.
Sometimes we encourage people to literally turn their body so even if they’re across the table, they're physically positioned so they could be shoulder to shoulder, and then frame the problem out between them to be looked at together.
Even though Getting to Yes is now 25 years old, it’s still challenging to figure out how to make the shift in real time. Shifting to “standing shoulder to shoulder” in your mind or in the moment, with a colleague, boss, spouse, or child, can totally change how the two of you move forward!
Try it out this week and let us know how it goes.
Hugs to you,
Your Coaches and Allies at Carpenter Smith Consulting
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