As we all know, plans have a way no not working out. I have seen people so disconcerted by a failed approach that they say or do something that actually raises the expectations of the other party. I have seen others so at a loss for words that they cave in all at once. Others become cantankerous when facing tough resistance, saying things they wish they had not said. What every negotiator should realize is that the other parties’ “no” and their strong resistance are to be expected. It must be built into the plan. I suggest two courses of action.
First, before talks start, test your line of reasoning and your arguments through a “Devil’s Advocate” defense. If it’s a personal negotiation, the so-called “Devil’s Advocate” can be your friend or spouse, or it can be an associate if it is a business transaction. The important thing is to have someone in your organization take the role of the opposer.
The job of the Devil’s Advocate is to frustrate your plans by doing two things. First, by forcing you to support your own position and second, by making you defend against the other side’s difficult arguments-arguments that they are sure to raise in the course of the later give and take.
Researchers call this the double defense: supporting your own arguments and rebutting those the opposer will bring up. Experiments in psychology have shown this to be the strongest defense preparation you can bring to the table.
My second suggestion also applies to any negotiation, be it personal or business. Learn to give yourself time to think by using frequent caucuses or time outs. This will permit a continuous review of the bargaining situation. As new developments come to light, you will be in a better position to make a revised plan and to adjust your strategy.
The process of negotiation is one of discovery. Strengths and weaknesses not anticipated beforehand will come to light. The regular use of a Devil’s Advocate approach, combined with frequent time outs and better advanced planning, is the best way to anticipate the unanticipated.