The Negotiation Highway

negotiation highway photo

Have you ever been in the left lane of a highway, and realized you need to get to the right lane to exit?  And has this ever happened to you during rush hour in New York City, where the roads are packed and traffic has slowed to a crawl?  This every-day scenario sets up a miniature negotiation.

What is a negotiation?  I frequently begin my negotiation classes asking people this question.  One definition is this: any interaction where you are trying to persuade or influence someone, or they are trying to persuade or influence you, is a negotiation.

Here is why this is useful: recognizing that impromptu and casual interactions, such as the lane merge, are forms of negotiations can help you navigate the situation. In the highway example, many people simply start merging into the flow of cars, coming dangerously closer and closer to traffic until someone finally gets scared and stops, allowing the merger to enter.  This usually works, although it can lead to a fender bender, and at a minimum annoys the other drivers.

But when you think of is  as a negotiation —  a situation where the goal is to persuade another driver to let you in – a different strategy comes to mind: make eye contact with a driver in the lane and politely ask permission to enter the lane.  Not every driver will say yes, but most are happy to help out, when asked nicely.  How to be persuasive is one of the secrets to negotiating effectively.