“They won’t listen to me” … this phrase should set off alarm bells in a negotiation


Because it indicates that there is more work to be done before fruitful discussions can take place.

As discussed in my last post, feeling as though you have been heard and understood ties into our self esteem and concept of self. If someone does not feel heard, the likely impact is that they will feel undervalued, ignored, misunderstood and suffer a loss of self esteem. But, importantly the reverse is true:

If people feel that they have been understood by someone, they tend to value that person’s opinion and are more likely to listen to what that person has to say. This is exactly what you want when negotiating with someone

You don’t need to look to the psychology journals to know this is true – just look at social media.

Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter – they wouldn’t be anywhere near as popular if  people couldn’t comment on, or like, the posts. I am certainly hoping that I will get a “like” when I share this blog on LinkedIn – why?  it gives me affirmation that people are listening to my views and understand my point. And guess what – the people who like or comment on my posts – I am much more likely to stop and read their posts, or articles they share!

If someone has indicated to me that they have read this blog post, and perhaps even agree with it, I am more likely to engage with them and will probably view them as having an opinion that I will listen to. I may not agree with their opinion, but I will listen to it, will mull it over and form an opinion on it.

Being involved in a negotiation is no different. I have participated in many mediations, as either a party or the mediator, in which there has been no attempt to understand the other parties position and guess what – those matters are the ones that usually didn’t settle on the day. Whereas the ones in which there is a fruitful opening session, usually involving the parties personally outlining the impact that the incident/dispute has had on them, and is continuing to have on them, are the ones in which compromises are often reached and the parties walk away with a sense that a fair outcome has been reached.

So next time you are in an mediation think twice about skipping the joint opening session or telling your client not to make any statement at all. And if opening statements are made – you will be well served to indicate in some way that you have heard and understood the other parties statement. You don’t have to agree with it – just show that you have listened and have heard.

A few key phrases that will assist in that regard include “I have heard…”, “how you feel  …”, “It seems that ..”. For example:

  • “Thank you for outlining your experiences, I have heard how difficult you have found the past x years”
  • “I have certainly gained a more detailed understanding of how you feel the injury has impacted you”
  • “It seems that you believed you were following the policies and procedures in place”

All of these phrases are designed to illustrate that you have heard what the other party says and should illicit a “yes, that’s right” response.

Hearing that phrase is a good indicator that you the party feels heard and understood and is in the best place to listen and consider your reasons for why a compromise should be made

If you would like to learn more about R3 Resolutions’ offering and approach, subscribe at www.r3resolutions.com.au; follow us on Linkedin and email our Principal, Julie Somerville on jsomerville@r3resolutions.com.au.