“As a leader, biases always affect your thoughts in negotiations. And your beliefs about that is proof of how you are being affected by them right now.” -Greg Williams, The Master Negotiator & Body Language Expert
“Leaders Do You Know How To Unmask Biases
To Increase Negotiation Skills”
People don’t realize they’re always negotiating. And biases affect that.
As a leader, you constantly negotiate, and your biases determine how you engage with those you lead. Whether with your team, clients, or stakeholders, your negotiation abilities will determine your degree of success, which your biases will influence.
Thus, one of the biggest obstacles you will have to overcome in your negotiation is the biases surrounding the engagement. The biases you encounter will stem from yours and those with whom you negotiate.
Biases can cloud one’s judgment, skewing the opinion of negotiators from otherwise viewing the other side’s perspective as benefits or detriments. That can alter your chances for a more successful outcome.
In this article, I will give you insights into how you, as a leader, can quickly unmask biases and increase your negotiation skills.
Biases – Examples And What They Are
Biases are shortcuts our brains take to make decisions faster. They form from people’s past experiences, their beliefs, and the values they possess. And while they can be of benefit, biases can also lead to faulty decision-making, making it difficult to negotiate successfully. Take unconscious biases, also known as implicit biases, as an example.
Unconscious biases can be thoughts about certain groups of people that individuals form about those outside their conscious awareness. And if you think you are immune from them, you are wrong!
That might be your confirmation bias – one’s tendency to seek information to confirm one’s beliefs. Everyone holds unconscious beliefs about various groups of people. Are you aware of yours?
Problems With Biases In Negotiation
As stated, one’s biases can be the source of that person tuning out and turning off from the opposition’s perspectives. Worse, they can alienate communications and trust, forging fraught fears and causing a negotiation to go awry while widening the separation gap. Even more dire, they can be the source that deadens future negotiations by the same or similar negotiators due to new biases formed.
Strategies Leaders Can Use To Unmask Biases In Negotiations
You must know how to unmask biases to negotiate effectively as a leader. The following are suggestions about how you can accomplish that.
1. Look in the mirror and recognize your own biases.
Everyone has biases, including you. Before entering a negotiation, assess how your biases might impact your thinking and actions. Consider how you might make and respond to offers based on your assessment.
Then, consider how you might alter your perspective of the other negotiator and their offers if you maintained an open mind – one whereby you controlled biases. By recognizing your biases and planning to manage them, you will enter the talks with a different perspective and set the negotiation on a better path. That should also enhance the perception others have of you as a leader.
2. Know your opposition’s biases.
Before entering into a negotiation, good leaders gather information about those with whom they will negotiate. Part of that process entails understanding or at least estimating individuals’ biases.
Being unsure of the opposition’s biases can make the negotiation more challenging. If you find yourself in that position, observe gestures (i.e., frowns, fake smiles, hand gestures indicating dislikes, etc.). Also, listen carefully to the word choices the person uses. They will lend invaluable insight into someone’s inner thought process.
Phrases like “You are all alike, aren’t you?” and “It’s always tough dealing with you people? (confirmation bias)” can signal an overt negative bias. While a phrase like “It’s going to be nice negotiating with you. You guys are always open and fair (confirmation bias), which can signal an overt positive bias.
3. Use/Ask Questions Strategically
As a leader, asking pertinent questions is essential for uncovering someone’s biases. And the timing of when you pose a question may be more critical.
By asking a question at a strategic point in a negotiation, using the appropriate tonality and gesture(s) (e.g., speaking soft/harsh, leaning in/away), you can glean insight into the basis of the person with whom you are engaged.
For example, if you, as a leader, observe your subordinate acting demurely, you might move closer while softly asking if everything is okay with them. They may respond by saying that they are nervous in your presence. That may indicate that they have an authoritarian bias – one whereby they subjugate themselves to stay in their place. And having that insight will allow you to determine better how to proceed in a negotiation with that individual.
As a leader, being able to unmask biases is an essential skill you must possess to negotiate effectively. By recognizing your biases and those with whom you engage, you will be well on your way to being a better leader who leads more effectively.
While I only touched on a few biases to familiarize yourself with, I suggest you delve deeper into anchoring, confirmation, overconfidence, egocentric, reactance, hindsight, and unconscious biases. Doing so will enhance your ability to uncover biases and increase your negotiation skills. That, in turn, will lead you to becoming a better negotiator. And everything will be right with the world.
Remember, you’re always negotiating!
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