Your negotiation journey – part one

Back in 2019 when my entrepreneurial journey started, I came to a realization about my negotiating failures. Without going into details about my shortcomings (let’s just say I had my fair share early), they all shared one common aspect.

But before I let you in on what made me lose so much time at the negotiation table, it is time to introduce you to ALiN. ALiN is a multifaceted tool. It helps you prepare for your negotiations and consider where to spend your awareness budget. It is an effective approach to sort negotiation tricks and techniques. Finally, it helps you sort the (too) abundant literature. 

Raise your awareness level

If there is anyone secret of success, it lies in the ability to get the other person’s point of view – Henry Ford

Awareness levels?

What are awareness levels and why do they matter? Answering the former is easier than the latter. There are three types of awareness levels during any negotiation : (1) the personal, (2) the interpersonal, or (3) the context. I’ve used this graph in the past to explain this concept :

The Awarness Levels in Negotiation model by 2021

Why does it matter? In this series, we emphasize that negotiation is not about you. As Chris Voss puts it,

Negotiate in their world. [Persuasion] is about the other party convincing themselves that the solution you want is their own idea.”

In other words, a good negotiator does not focus on sounding smart. A good negotiator focuses on making their counterpart feel smart in choosing the negotiator’s solution. 

Which level should you consider in certain situations?

Level one – personal preparation

The first level is all about the self, so this is the time to focus on your own ideas. Preparing your polygon of interests or decision trees requires introspection. While it is impossible not to be at this level during actual negotiation, you should never spend more than ten percent of the time in your own thoughts/speaking about yourself. I use techniques such as – silence, short sentences, and questions to keep me out of it as much as possible. 

Level two – interpersonal communication

On the second level the focus shifts to your counterpart. You listen and observe how they behave. Silence and calibrated questions should be used to uncover their position and their perspective. You are diving into your counterpart’s world, and navigating the unknown is an art. It is about making them comfortable enough to reveal information that requires empathy. The trick is to not fall into interrogation mode. Rather lead your negotiation partner to uncover their pain points. While on the second level you are opening the door for them to share what they really need from you. How much time should you spend in their world during an interaction? About thirty percent. Dedicate this time to what your counterpart has to say. 

Level three – negotiation context

In the third and final level, your focus shifts to the negotiation context. While in the second level you are focusing on what your counterpart is communicating, the third level is about identifying all critical contextual clues. Non-verbal communication is a source of information. What is the body language, the appearance of your counterpart, their reactions, etc. You also need here to uncover what is the negotiation context of your counterpart. What are they not telling you? Who makes the decision, what is their BATNA, when do they need an agreement? 

How much time should you invest in the observation level? As much as you can. Including preparation time, you can count up to sixty percent of the time you should dedicate to the negotiation’s context. Be subtle, take notes, and use questions to avoid the risk of talking too much.

So what?

Going back to my initial failures. The root cause of my initial failures may seem too obvious by now. I did not spend enough time listening to my counterpart and analyzing the negotiation context. My focus was centered around one person… And it was the wrong one! Myself. As if the negotiation was about me, how smart I sounded, and how I could convince the other party.

Applying ALiN to your negotiation refocuses your awareness to the elements that matter, your counterpart, and the negotiation context. Spending your negotiation awareness budget wisely is one of the keys to a successful negotiation. The right awareness level allows you to play the host and lead the conversation. Ultimately you become a better negotiator and achieve better results. 

This post is part of “your negotiation journey series”. The next eight steps of the series will be published every second Monday starting September 13th. 

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About the author

Constantin Papadopoulos is a senior marketing & sales consultant. He builds bridges between services & products and their respective audience. He is also a communication & negotiation trainer for the Swiss Army.