General McChrystal and BP CEO Tony Hayward Forgot: To Negotiate Successfully Remember – You are Always Negotiating

Do you consider good negotiation skills to be important? If you don’t, you should. Do you realize that you’re always negotiating? Anytime you exchange information that gives insight into the way you think and/or the position you hold pertaining to situations, in reality you ’are’ negotiating. General Stanley McChrystal, British Petroleum (BP) CEO Tony Hayward, and BP’s Chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg all forgot this valuable insight, and they paid the price for their forgetfulness.

You might not consider yourself as negotiating during a ‘normal exchange of information’, but the exchange of such information gives insight into your character and highlights your beliefs on stances that you’ve adopted, or might adopt on certain positions.

Consider statements recently made by McChrystal, Hayward, and  Svanberg. You would think people with their level of experience and position would know, you’re always negotiating. Thus, McChrystal should have known better than to trust comments he made to a reporter, in thinking those comments would not be printed or find its way to ‘other’ outlets. Hayward should have thought about the ramifications of saying, “I want my life back”, after the accident caused by BP disrupted the lives of so many people in the United States. Svanberg should have given thought to how his statement of, “the little people” would cast him and BP as elitist, detached from those of less fortunes and the doubts people would have about BP being genuinely concerned about the oil spill. Even if you harbor such thoughts, you keep such views to yourself. Through your words and actions, you’re always negotiating.

In McChrystal’s case, since the Rolling Stone article in which he made his disparaging remarks has not “hit the stands”, a lot of the backlash that he experienced came about as the result of the perception his remarks cast. Those remarks painted a perception of him being a soldier that was ‘out of touch’ with the administration to which he serves.

From a negotiation perspective, there are times when it’s appropriate to allow people to draw their own conclusions from what you’ve said, without correcting them. In so doing, you still have to manage their perception of your thoughts, actions, and words. Once those thoughts transition into a negative sphere, in which they become detrimental to your position, it behooves you to correct their perception.

Even worse, when speaking, since people can ‘hear faster’ than one speaks, people will ‘grab’ sound bites. Thus, if you say something provocative, or something that is truly out of character with what’s considered the norm, you open yourself to possible retribution.

One thing that everyone should keep in mind is the fact that the more status you possess, the more media savvy you must become. In addition, one should remember that status is perceptional and thus one should always mind one’s tongue. One errant word can destroy a career, a future, a life. Therefore, as you go throughout your daily activities, remember, you’re always negotiating … and everything will be right with the world.

The Negotiation Tips Are …

  • When negotiating, your spoken words express your attitudes. Watch the actions to which your words commit, in order to be framed in the most positive light.
  • Like alarm clocks kill dreams, a lack of negotiation skills kill future opportunities. Be aware of the impact your words have on others. Become a better negotiator.
  • If you use words appropriately during a negotiation, you won’t have to settle for what you get, you can get what you want.

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