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The Importance Of Naming The Event

'We're in discussions…' announces one side. 'We're in ongoing negotiations' states the other. This interesting variation in their choice of words is significant as each side is trying to play up or play down the importance of what is in fact occurring.

We see a similar choice of words in many arenas. On the international scene, countries often describe diplomatic interventions concerning each other’s behaviour as ‘talks’. In the home, parents might describe interventions regarding their children’s behaviour as having a ‘family chat’.

Naming The Event is Important

Each descriptive choice labelling what is happening is aimed at sending a message to influence the mindset of those involved.

Commonly, when we label the event a ‘negotiation’ it sends a signal that this is a more formal activity and those involved should be aware that each side will be trying to influence the other.

When we call the event a ‘talk’ or a ‘discussion’, generally we are trying to lessen its significance. In fact one side may be purposefully using the label tactically in an attempt to lessen the other side’s awareness that purposeful influencing is taking place.

From the ENSI point of view we advise clients to take a wide view of ‘negotiation’ by having a broad definition of the arena. If we’re seeking to influence an outcome, ‘negotiation’ is taking place – whether it is big ‘N’ Negotiation (formal persuasion), or little ‘n’ negotiation (informal discussions or conversations).

It’s The Same Set Of Skills

Significantly, whatever we call the event, it is important to appreciate that the underlying skill set is identical. Our capacity to manage the negotiating and/or influencing process impacts on our success both in business as well as our personal lives.

An early step in that process is to decide how to label the event. The descriptors used will start to positively or negatively influence the mindset of those involved.

Think about the difference in calling the event a ‘pricing negotiation’ compared to ‘working together for mutual advantage’. Consider if it is helpful to have a label that promotes a sense of win/lose resistance, or one that signals the advantage of joint gain.

What some may see as a simple label kick-starts the negotiating process and starts to create the mood of the parties for what follows.

The Process drives the Content (not the other way around).

Big 'N' and Little 'n' Negotiation Tips

  • Retain awareness of what is going on by having a broad definition of 'negotiation'. At ENSI we recommend something like 'every time a person tries to influence an outcome'.
  • Label the event with care as it starts to influence the other party’s mindset.
  • Consider building early common ground by including appropriate words into how you are naming the event.
  • Always remember: Process drives Content. 'How' you are managing the event is commonly much more significant to the Outcome than the 'What' you are negotiating about.

To discuss this article in more depth and explore developing your negotiation capabilities, please contact us via email or call +612 9299 9688.

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ENS International (ENSI) provides negotiation consulting and training services helping people and organizations think and act differently to achieve more. 

Negotiators gain the edge using proven ENSI influencing processes incorporating commercial psychology with a deep understanding of human behaviour. ENSI delivers through Consulting Services and In-House or Open Course training. 

With over 60 Practitioners working within 75 countries we have a depth of experience across a diverse range of sectors.

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