Ignore Human Nature At Your Peril
This phrase is one of the negotiation philosophies we live by at Black Swan. It is amazing how much you can get accomplished in any given interaction/negotiation by appealing to the human nature side of someone else.
There are countless ways to do it if you really take a moment to consider the fact that it is there. The one we will focus on this month is the idea of personalization. In general people unconsciously have a higher level of comfort conversing in a candid manner with people whose first name they know. This seems inherently obvious, but we all need to be more mindful of the adverse effects of not engaging in something as simple as an introduction.
It is easy for the average person to be mentally and emotionally barred from another for any given reason when the only existing connection is pieces of matter floating in space. This state of mind/view of another makes it easy to be withdrawn or extremely short and is a natural subconscious reaction for most. Once something as simple as an exchange of names has been established a sense of collaboration and personalization is immediately present.
A simple introduction is not enough to hold a collaborative environment for an extended period of time, but it is the most effective way to get off on the right foot. When an interaction is a one off or a first meeting, an introduction is essential for the highest probability of success. Coupling this concept with empathy, an accommodating delivery and the effective use of labels would be one way to move the negotiation forward.
The easiest way to practice this is on the phone with customer service agents and gatekeepers. When you call, they generally give their name first which makes your job easy. Always respond with a greeting, their name and state your first name only. Repeating their name back lets them know you have acknowledged them as a person and appreciate it. On a personal note repeating their name before giving mine helps in remembering what their name actually is, which will come in handy later.
If there comes a point in time when the counterpart requests your last name, give your whole name but insist on them referring to you only by your first. This creates a sense of equality. If they were to call you Mr./Mrs./etc, there will undoubtedly be an atmosphere of superiority. This is something to be careful of unless done on purpose. Always be mindful of the fact that you may be dealing with a negotiator type that has a natural negative reaction to notions of superiority, definitely something to be avoided. In the event this person does not have that reaction, you are still Mr./Mrs./etc so and so, not someone they are automatically comfortable exchanging information with.
Lastly, when the conversation is near its conclusion, use their name again to sign off succeeded by: “you have been extremely helpful and generous with your time.” The follow on statements are necessary pieces of empathy and have nothing to do with how you personally felt about the interaction. DO NOT use the other person’s name over and over again during an interaction, use it in the beginning and the end. Using someone’s name to begin statements in conversation creates defensiveness, they know you want something. Feel free to experiment with the use of this technique, fitting it to your personality will make you more memorable.