Learning to negotiate is difficult because as we mature, the way in which we negotiate changes.
When our parents negotiated with us when we were children, it was a transactional process and we were given a reward for agreeing to do things. For instance “if you eat all of your dinner you can have some sweets afterwards”. Thus, the negotiation is made by bribing the child to be conditioned to what the parents believed was right.
There is often no basis for this apart from expediency. However, as we get older, a transformational relationship develops where; through negotiation, new ideas, developments and co-created concepts bring reward to all of those concerned.
In my time as a music promoter and venue manager, I learned the hard way how negotiation worked.
I was promoting a huge thrash metal band from the US and halfway through the evening, one of the girls that served the band their food came running into my office in tears. I finally calmed her down and asked her what had happened.
She related that one of the members of the band crew had started to throw the food around the room shouting, “This is dog food”.
I ran down to the green room where the band and crew were eating. The guitarist from the support band was sitting outside the room and as I approached he said, “I would not go into the room, the guy in there is wanted for attempted murder and he had gone mad. They say he will be deported in the morning when the police catch up with him”.
I decided that I had to act and went into the room where the crew member in question was in the process of pouring the contents of the food container into an upright piano. I then confronted him and managed to calm him down. However, I put all of the stewards and security on alert about him.
At the end of the night, I refused to pay the band until I had spoken to the agent about the issue on the following Monday morning.
The next day I had an irate call from the agent demanding payment for the gig; which had sold out. I refused saying that if the agent paid for the cleaning of the piano we would pay them the difference.
This resulted in a further call where I was told that we would not receive any further artists or bands until we had paid. I then received a summons to court to face charges of non-payment of fees. I rang and kept negotiations open right up until the morning of the court case.
I had on my suit ready to go when I received a call from the agent who said that the company would pay for the cleaning of the piano as long as we paid the difference to them within two weeks.
We had the piano cleaned and paid within the time limit. I had negotiated a win/win situation.
Not exactly the way that you want to negotiate, but it proved to me that if you believe that something is right to stand up for, then others will back down eventually if they are wrong.
This gave me the strength throughout my career to stand up to people in negotiations.