One of the advantages of learning the art of negotiation, is that a whole range of unexpected negotiating opportunities materialise.
‘Have you got five minutes?’ is a request heard daily in most offices. Someone standing in front of you wants some of your time to discuss an idea they have, to get your advice, to raise an issue of concern; the list of possible concerns is endless. The point is, that what they want is the one thing you don’t have enough of - time.
Of course, as a manager or co-worker you want to appear co-operative, so therefore the default answer is, ‘Yes, come in. How can I help?’. You have now surrendered to their agenda; they are in control. The first point is that the resulting conversation is never going to finish in the five minutes. The second is that the inevitable result of the meeting, is that you will be asked to do something for the other party. It may be as simple as advice, support for their idea at a subsequent meeting, it may even be to gain access to some of your resources: people, facilities, vehicles - again the list is endless.
The meeting has now become a negotiation and you are immediately on the back foot because you haven’t prepared for it. You may find yourself agreeing to something that you may later regret. Too late, you realise that you shouldn’t have placed yourself in this position.
So, let’s rewind and prepare alternatives to the reflex, ‘Yes.’ From the beginning, recognise that this is potentially a negotiation where the timing, location and subject matter have already been decided by your colleague. A simple response would be just to say, ‘No I’m busy.’ Your time is protected, but your reputation as a caring manager or colleague would probably suffer. Far better to make a proposal; ‘If you’re prepared to send me an email outlining what you want to discuss, I’ll make time this afternoon’. You have now wrestled back control, and if the matter’s important, you have given yourself time to prepare for a meeting when it occurs.
These micro-negotiation opportunities occur at random, throughout each working day. Not all need to be negotiated, but if you choose to, then you have the developed a skill to take control.