At some point in your life you will have to deal with a difficult person. It may be when you least expect it or when you’ve been warned far in advance. Regardless of the situation, following the N.I.C.E. system can help you handle a difficult person without becoming one of them.
N—Neutralize your emotions. Dealing with difficult people can be an emotional challenge. The more emotional you are, the less rational you behave. Conversely, the more your emotions are in check, the more you can be in control of a positive outcome.
I—Identify the type. There are three basic types of difficult people (and several permutations of each).
• The Situationally Difficult: those people whose situation or circumstances make them difficult
• The Strategically Difficult: those people who believe being unreasonable is effective
• The Simply Difficult: those people with an ingrained personality characteristic
C—Control the encounter. Once you know which type of difficult individual you face, you can employ the appropriate techniques to help shape and determine the outcome of the encounter. If you utilize the right techniques, you can change the fate of deals, meetings, and everyday confrontations.
E—Explore options. Even after shaping the encounter, you may still be at an impasse. The process of getting “unstuck” often requires the development of options—alternative solutions—so both sides can give and get. (This includes the option of ending without escalating, reserved for those instances in which the best deal is no deal, which can preserve the possibility of a future deal.)
A little while back, a member of SNI purchased a new condo. The market in this particular area had continued to be hot through the recession and as a result it was very likely there were going to be multiple offers on the property. While most potential bidders tried to take advantage of time with the seller to express why they were such great candidates for the condo, this member used the time very differently.
He told the story like this: When I went in to speak with the seller, I didn’t do much speaking about myself. I sat with the owner and her fiancée and just asked and listened – why are you selling the apartment? Where are you moving to and why? What is important to you in this transaction? What else? What else? What is most important and why? It turned out they had bought an expensive house with the intention of making a few modifications but they got carried away and had started a full renovation. As a result, the house was going to take substantially longer to return to livable condition and the couple was unsure as to what they should and would do in the meantime.
When it came time to submitting offers, I extended the close date by several months and added a note about being flexible in order to let them settle in to their new home. I was not in a hurry to move, I just wanted the right place at the right price. Knowing they had been slightly over their heads with the renovation and wanted to ensure the sale would go through, I included a substantially larger than average deposit with the total bid that was about 5% lower than what I expected to be the highest bid. I also included a note about my two apartments that offered short term leases at reasonable prices – friends of mine had used them in the past and raved about the value. It turned out my bid was about 4% lower but I still came away with the best property I had seen in over 6 months of searching.
Like in many other situations, the price was important, but it’s wasn’t everything. Ask the right questions, figure out what is important to the other side, and find a way to give it to them. In order to get what you want (the condo at a good price) you have to give them what they want (a reasonable price, a sense of security, a later close date, and help figuring out their living situation).
Preparation is vital in any negotiation. We say it all the time, but we wouldn’t say it if it wasn’t true. If you don’t prepare, you’re missing out on the opportunity to be in control of the negotiation. If you have prepared for all the possible scenarios, you will have the confidence to negotiate the best deal possible.
One great way to prepare is through precedents. They can be common steps or shrewd maneuvers, logical decisions or risky bets, strategies or strokes of luck, prompt or last-minute adjustments, great achievements or simple mistakes from the arc of your career, from other people, or even from the grand stage of history itself. Analyzing the past with an objective microscope can help shape your preparation for your present endeavor. History has a tendency to repeat itself, so you might as well take advantage of what has taken place before.
One example of using precedents could be if a competitor is undercutting your prices for a service or product. Because dropping your price is not an alternative, you look for transactions in which you or others have successfully warded of pricing challenges. You uncover instances in which your competitor failed to meet promised distribution times, a factor important to your customers. You make guaranteed delivery dates a key part of your deals instead of reducing prices. Your customers are convinced and you fight off the pricing threat.
When actors like Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro are filming a scene for a movie, they become entrenched in the script. They go over it forwards, backwards, and sideways to get into the character and deliver their lines with power and emotion. Hollywood, however, isn’t the only place that scripts come in handy. When preparing for a negotiation, scripting can be an extremely valuable tool.
Scripting is taking the time to write down the anticipated dialogue for a meeting. It prepares you for what you will say and what you anticipate the other side will say. You may not be able to predict the exact course of events, but you can rehearse the scenarios you anticipate. By thinking through and writing down scripts for the way you think events will unfold, you will have a solid foundation for dealing with the twists and turns of actual events.
Scripting allows you to gain confidence in the message you are trying to deliver. It’s valuable for crafting not only the message you are trying to convey, but also how you will do it. If you want an “ask” of $1 million per year, make sure you say exactly
that. Don’t say things like “something in the range of $1 million” or “between $750,000 and $1,000,000”—this already puts you below your projected ask. When you write and practice your script, you’re not only rehearsing your message, but you’re considering things like word choice, tone, use of persuasive precedents, probing, and even silence. These types of considerations will make a difference in communicating effectively and closing the deal.