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Are negotiations more difficult than ever? And what makes a good negotiation? We asked Matthias Schranner, founder of the Schranner Negotiation Institute, for answers.
We see war in Europe, a climate crisis and tough economic circumstances. The stakes are raised. Are negotiations becoming more important in these times?
Definitely. It’s becoming more important and more difficult. And most managers and politicians aren’t prepared for difficult negotiations. For this, you need different strategies, tactics, a different team setup. Here in Zurich with the N-Conference, we try to translate experiences and knowledge from, for example, law enforcement, into politics and business.
Is it the same thing if you’re negotiating your own salary as negotiating a hostage situation?
Yes. There are some principles. Most people think a negotiation is between you and me sitting at the table and the one with the best argument will win. But for governments, for example, there are many stakeholders. But the principles are the same. You need a clear target, in a very strategic way, and you need tactical steps.
Give us a bit of an idea of what you learned in hostage situations, a rather tough school of negotiating. Something that you can now pass on to business leaders.
You shouldn’t be emotionally attached. If you’re emotionally attached, you make mistakes. You also need to avoid an early commitment. If you say no, you close all the doors. And if you say yes, then you have to give in. The most important advice from my perspective is to save face. People believe a negotiation is harsh, which is not the case. For someone who’s about to commit suicide or a hostage taker, what we offer at the end of the negotiation is we will hand over a firefighter uniform. So you can leave the situation looking like a firefighter and you can save your face.
What if the other side doesn’t say what they want? Is it possible to negotiate or is that a deadlock situation?
It’s not definitely not possible, but based on my experience, if you come up with an argument, you will receive a counter-argument. If you come up with a demand, you receive a demand from the other side.
There’s a big discussion going on about negotiating with Russia’s president Putin at the moment.
Is there room for negotiations at this point?
The war will build the ground for the negotiation. The big issue right now is that both parties believe that if no negotiation happens at all, it’s better for them. So Putin believes that he will win this war, and as long as he believes that, he will not negotiate. It’s the same on the other side, for Ukraine. Are negotiations more difficult than ever? And what makes a good negotiation? We asked Matthias Schranner, founder of the Schranner Negotiation Institute, for answers.
After spending 20 years in law enforcement and police negotiations, Matthias Schranner founded the Schranner Negotiation Institute in 2005. With it, he consults, trains and organizes events within the fields of negotiation and conflict resolution. He’s the founder of the N-Conference, which this year is taking place in November in Zurich.
Photos: Schranner Negotiation Institute