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To Persuade or Negotiate? That is the Question!

Tyler Hall

So often we are asked – what is the difference between persuasion and negotiation?


We observe negotiations, discussions, and arguments with two types of dialogue - persuasive dialogue and negotiating dialogue. Persuasive dialogue is telling, selling, influencing and arguing to win. Negotiating dialogue is trying to discover the positions, constraints and priorities of the other party and also disclosing your own. We are trying to gain understanding in order to then trade on issues.


So should I persuade or negotiate?


Our advice is that you should try to persuade the other party first. If they move your way by the sweet words out of your persuasive lexicon - it’s cost you nothing! However, if persuasion fails we recommend you move to negotiation dialogue.


We find people spend way too long continuing to argue points that have already been rejected. It can then lead to circular arguments and frustration for all parties. Worst still, it can also erode trust and credibility as the other party may view that you are entirely self-interested.


Here is an example of recognising when persuasion is failing and subsequently switching to negotiating dialogue.


Manager A and B are having a discussion about business growth strategy. Manager A says to manager B, “We should have a product development strategy to on-sell to our strong client base.” Manager B replies, “Nah, market penetration is the way to go, we haven’t even come close to saturating the market.”


At this point they could go around and round for hours trying to persuade one another and in the process probably increase tension in their relationship. Instead it would be far more productive if Manager A could switch to negotiating dialogue questions such as:


“Are there any circumstances under which you could see product development working?” or

“Is there anything you do like about potential product development strategy?” or

“What are your concerns in relation to product development not working?”


This is a much more productive conversation and it’s much more likely that the two managers can find common ground to move forward.


In summary, both persuasion and negotiating dialogue have their place. Try persuasion first but if it isn’t working recognise the need to try a different approach such as negotiating dialogue.


I’ll leave you with this quote from Aristotle: “Character may almost be called the most effective means of persuasion.” Always a good reminder for myself when engaging with my colleagues, clients, family and friends.


Happy negotiating,


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