Arnold Schwarzenegger recently told a story from his early days in California in the 70ties. To make some additional dough, he and his mate Franco Columbo started a sidebusiness as bricklayers. Each time when they were negotiating the final price for works to be done, and the building owner made his offer, Franco started playing the bad cop by instantly morphing into an infuriated madman throwing insults at the principal in his mother tongue. Arnold rescued the situation by playing the good cop  softening the meat and calming his mate down to get him to agree to a fair price. The buildings owner was so thankful that he accepted a higher price than the one initially envisaged by Arnold and Franco.

Communication Tactics Are Short-lived

The good cop/bad cop method may work as other methods may have their merits, too.

But they all have some drawbacks: remember, you made it through Harvard negotiation concepts, you tried “win-win”, you played hardball and turned up the pressure after a soft beginning, you ended the presentation before time to make your counterpart want more, you thought that people only chase what they cannot have.

You or your employees attended negotiation and communication seminars. In intercultural coachings you learned about the stereotypes and clichès: Russians are sceptical at the onset, Arabs own the time while Europeans own the watch, Germans are a detailed oriented headache with no sense of humor or fun. You were told that you must follow specific rules in business negotiations in order to win the minds and get the deal. Later on when an encounter took an unexpected turn, your meticulously prepared concept “collapsed” and you desperately needed to rescue the situation. Why this? Because you were a programmed robot without spontaneity, improvisation and authenticity.

According to my experiences, all negotiation and communication tactics are pretty much a waste of time and energy. The ultimate truth in getting a good deal done is bloody simple. It’s independent of culture, status, hierachy or professional background. It always works.

Make People Feel Safe

So start hammering one simple truth into your brain: See the invisible signs on peoples’ foreheads, saying “Make me feel felt”.

Entrepreneur, CEO under pressure, accountant or billionaire who has more money than god: They all have a basic human need to be listened to, understood and respected in their particular situation.

Being aware and respecting cultural differences is one thing. But paying tribute to the basic human need of “being felt and understood” will propel your communication and negotiation results to higher levels.

To make people “being felt” requires a natural curiosity for peoples’ private and professional lifes. Listening skills are mandatory. And you must not feel bad that your curiosity is born out of self-interest. Genuine curiosity and empathy can never be faked and your counterpart will feel and appreciate it. Communication, creativity and business will flow. Time limits set for a meeting disappear. Priorities change.

Try it out and go into a meeting without major preperation or scripts. Learn to improvise and adapt on the spot. And never forget that your counterpart may be under pressure and plays a role. Getting him to shed his mask and talk business in a relaxed private manner will shift your business results dramatically to the positive.