To achieve greatness in business conflicts, are you doing this?

Sometimes, it would be so much easier to just give in.

When our adversary (or “negotiation partner”) withholds something or acts to harm us, we don’t want to start a fight. And if we are already fighting, we fear escalating it.

Conflict can be costly, time consuming, stressful, and involve many, many risks we want to avoid. I always advise my clients when I believe a fight isn’t worth it, where the costs and risks are too high to make victory hollow.

That is part of a lawyer’s job, to provide a voice of reason (based on experience) to warn you from walking emotionally into something against your best interests.

But before you resign from a negotiation, think for a moment — indeed several moments — before you let your fear of conflict keep you from reaching for something important to you. For most people, the fears in our minds are poor reflection of reality. Our ancestors have passed on to us a brain that tends to exaggerate our fears and discount our opportunities.

So be careful. When you face a conflict, try not to rely solely on your “gut feeling.” For most of us, conflict will inflict a tightness in our bodies that at first is going to make us hurt.

Those who achieve greatness do so despite that bad feeling. Unlike most of us, they will not succumb to the fear. Nor will they respond erratically or irrationally.

Rather, with warm values and cold determination, they will step back and consider their options.

And they will get the right advisers to help them do it.

After that, they will resolve to take the right action—and do it.

Finally, when their opponents make another move, the great ones will act again and again—wisely and confidently—till the conflict ends.

Mindset to Win: Business Negotiations in High-Conflict Situations

In my professional practice, negotiation often happens in the midst of war—in high conflict situations where there is a lot at stake for my client.

Admittedly, it is rare (as a business lawyer) for me to argue cases that involve physical life or death. But the stakes often feel that significant. A poorly handled conflict can destroy one’s livelihood, business, reputation, retirement plans, and even health and family life.

Conversely, a well-handled conflict in the right circumstances can renew one’s life; it can give a second chance to build that dream business; to try again for fame and fortune; to create success that inspires others; to leave a legacy. Can you imagine how much stress weighs on my clients before they meet me, with so much at stake?

People are right to be wary of conflict; if only we could accomplish everything we want without it. But as we grow older, we learn that hoping for such ease is a fantasy: we don’t get what we desire just from wanting it. Why? Because whatever it is we want, we sense that we have to compete for it; there is a limited supply of it.

Whether true or not, our society demands that we believe in scarcity. There’s not enough money for everyone, not enough respect, and not enough love and trust.

And even if we believe in abundance, our opponents do not. And that is why they aim to take what is rightfully ours. They withhold their money, respect, love, and trust because they have to save it for themselves. Can you blame them? Many of their fears are the same as ours.

Conflict by itself is a very bitter ingredient; but it is essential to the recipe for our greatness. So don’t give in too quickly. Instead look for opportunity, and claim it wisely. More on that in the next post.

Business Negotiations Fail If You Rely Solely on This

Every aspect of life and every relationship is a negotiation. That is a cliché we often hear from “master negotiators” and negotiation gurus, but it is true.

Nevertheless, I want to infuse that idea with more substance, because not all relationships and negotiations are the same. In our love relationships with family and friends, for example, sometimes we find moments of “discussion” that do not feel like negotiations at all; that is, there is no loser.

In these relationships, our shared values focus us in the same direction and we feel that we are part of the same project. And, when we give something up, we don’t feel like we’ve compromised because it is an act of love; we get what we want, because more than anything else, we want the other’s happiness.

Negotiation in such relationships is mainly about clear communication of needs, and an affirmation to the other that we care about the other’s well-being.

Most Negotiations Don’t Have Love—So Appreciate the Ones That Do

Most relationships, however, aren’t like that because they aren’t built on that level of love; nor is it realistic for us to expect them to be.

Yes, we should still try to understand the other’s position, and we should not unnecessarily inflict harm. Communication and being understood is still critically important — in fact much more so — because our “opponent” is less likely to cut us any slack.

Often we will still find that helping others get what they want will help us get what we want, but we shouldn’t kid ourselves. Mere generosity without fair exchange leads to an imbalanced relationship; it will fall or break sooner or later. With it, at least one party will get seriously hurt.

In my next post, I will write more about what happens in high-conflict cases; but beware that even “minor conflict” cases can grow into serious relationship breakdowns in the future. For now, recognize that only in the rare relationship can we depend solely on good faith; if you have one, make sure you appreciate it.


Welcome to Business Negotiation Strategies!

Our focus on this blog is to help hard-working business owners and professionals make better decisions in their negotiations with others. It is no secret that success in business is about managing relationships with others, giving and taking in winning ways, and binding our partners, vendors, and customers to follow through on their commitments. Beyond that, we must make sure that our negotiation goal are wise and sound. We do not want to exhaust ourselves by climbing up the proverbial ladder that is leaning against the wrong wall.

I hope that you will find value here; may we can learn from each other to get the knowledge, experience, support, and skills to make our business and professional lives work for us. Ultimately, I aspire that we will also work to make the world a better place.

Thank you for your patience, suggestions, and ideas as we launch this new blog. Please consider joining our RSS feed and email list, and visit frequently.

Tawfiq I. Ali
Principal Attorney
Ali Law Practice LLC