I go running regularly with a good friend and neighbour who happens to be a criminal defence lawyer. She is married to another lawyer who works in property and estate settlement etc. On our runs, we exchange tips and advice. She tells me how expensive it would be to divorce my husband, why I shouldn’t run a red light, and why helping my 17 year old daughter to obtain fake I.D. to get into pubs really isn’t a good idea. Why I really must make a will soon, when to put my house on the market, and what home improvements not to bother with. In exchange I tell her how to get a better deal in her various negotiations and we regularly brain storm long lists of things which she would like to get in negotiations in exchange for things she knows she will have to concede. Quite a pair we are. Imagine how much faster we would run if we spoke less and breathed more.
One night on our run, she announced that her brother had just resigned from a high profile editorial job for a newspaper. He was unhappy with the terms which the newspaper were willing to let him go on. There was a ‘non-compete’ clause in there where he was unable to write on certain subjects in any other publication for 12 months. This, he found, was unacceptable but he was unable to persuade them why. He spoke to his sister, my jogging pal, and she gave him some second hand advice. ‘Rather than continue to persuade them, why don’t you think of something they would really like you to do for them, something you could concede easily but which would be valuable for them, then try to trade this for a shorter ‘non-compete’ clause”.
He thought about it and came up with an offer to write them a monthly column for 6 months in exchange for a 6 month reduction in his clause. They jumped at the chance and agreed – they were delighted, he was delighted as this was very easy for him to do and would keep his profile high. Win/win.
A couple of days after our run I watched the local news on TV and smiled when I heard the announcement of his resignation.
Persuasion is an important part of the negotiating dialogue and if it works, great! The problem is that we tend to continue to persuade sometimes without realising that it’s starting to annoy or entrench the other party. There’s an art in recognising when your persuasion is falling on deaf ear and in being prepared to take another tack. I hope I don’t need to persuade of you that.