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Negotiation Skills Training: The Art of the Curiosity Mindset™

By |February 27, 2023

When you’re in a negotiation, there are two layers to the conversation: a presenting dynamic or emotion and a latent dynamic or emotion.

Most negotiators listen to what comes out of their counterpart’s mouth, focusing on the words that are actually said. However, there’s always a message behind what the other side says. 

As a negotiator, it’s your job to dig deeper and discover what lies under the surface. When you can identify something the other side either can’t or won’t articulate and you speak that idea out loud, you’ll come across as a mind reader.  You will demonstrate that you are so dialed into the conversation that you can understand their perspective without them having fully conveyed it.  

How exactly can you figure out latent dynamics or emotions? Easy: Stay curious.

By embracing the Curiosity Mindset™ and trying to uncover what’s bubbling below the surface of a conversation, it becomes much easier to identify the Black Swans—meaning the 3-5 pieces of hidden information in every tough conversation that, if uncovered, will change the dialogue and outcome. 

Learn how to stay curious.

In any difficult conversation, negative emotions will be triggered sooner or later. By staying curious, you can mitigate these emotions because you can’t be curious and triggered simultaneously. With a Curiosity Mindset, you can choose what you will do in response to the trigger instead of being governed by the fight-or-flight response.

When someone triggers you in a negotiation, whether intentional or not, they’re telling you that you’re missing something. 

Instead of focusing on the attack, ask yourself where it’s coming from. In most cases, attacks will stem from one of three places: 

  1. Your counterpart has been sending you signals about what’s going on, and you’ve ignored them or failed to articulate them.
  2. The other side is under tremendous pressure, and you haven’t acknowledged it.
  3. Your counterpart is trying to manipulate you because it’s worked for them in the past.

Regardless of which of these three reasons it is, you have to figure it out. By staying in the moment and maintaining a Curiosity Mindset, that task becomes much easier.

Ultimately, all of us want other people to understand where we’re coming from — even the most assertive and ardent negotiators. When you can express something the other side either can’t or won’t do themselves, it’s a heavy dose of Tactical Empathy™, leading to better rapport and faster deals. 

Resist the temptation to fight back.

Next time someone calls you a name or insults you during a negotiation, you will get triggered.  Nothing you can do about it.  You do however, have complete control of how you respond to the trigger.  Resist the urge to lash out or (figuratively speaking) run from that portion of the conversation. Instead, try to identify where those attacks are coming from. In many cases, this can throw the other side off their game.

For example, if someone attacks you, apologize and flip it back using a Label™: It sounds like you’ve got a reason for saying what you just said. 

Most people will find it hard to answer this Label. In most cases, their behavior won’t line up with the realities of the environment, meaning it’s always coming from an emotional place.  When emotions are high, rational thinking is low.

Does your negotiation strategy fit their personality? Use this guide to  negotiate successfully with anyone »

Make “stay curious” your mantra.

For most folks, being curious all the time is unnatural. If you want to give the Curiosity Mindset a whirl, you need to keep it top of mind and recite it over and over in your head. Ask yourself, “Why did she say that?”  “Why did he do that?” Before sitting down at the table, say the words “stay curious” in your head. If you’re on a Zoom call, write CURIOSITY on a notepad in big, bold letters and look at it throughout the conversation.

Using the Curiosity Mindset takes work. But once you have your sea legs, it becomes a beneficial tool. Not only will you show the other side that you are listening to the words coming out of their mouth, but you’ll also prove you can parse out what they’re not saying.

As a result, you can demonstrate an understanding of their motivations and worldview, altering the chemicals in their brain and making them warm up to you.

When you master the art of curiosity, you set yourself apart from everyone else. After all, most people want to run away from tough conversations or fight back. When someone hits you in the mouth and you flip it around and say, I’m sorry, It sounds like I offended you. What would cause you to respond to me like that?, it lands on them differently.

Staying curious can help you achieve better business outcomes. But it’s even easier when you can identify who’s sitting across the table from you. 

Check out our free guide, Three Negotiator Types, to learn more about how to approach your counterpart effectively — whether they’re an Assertive, an Analyst, or an Accommodator. 

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