Of all the media and fan sites dedicated to probing every nuance of Netflix’s must-watch series Stranger Things, the experts might be missing something obvious but rather profound. I’m not a big TV or movie buff, but certain themes and genres tend to excite my interests more than others, and this show definitely represents one of them. Yet while so many journalists and bloggers have focused on the minutiae, they seem to have glossed over the extraordinary — namely, the line that separates the believable from unbelievable. Personally, I’m amazed by the creative minds that come up with such fantastical ideas. It’s truly a unique gift and a point of instruction to take with you to the negotiation table.
Creativity is a friend of the thoughtful negotiator, especially when facing seemingly insurmountable issues and pending deadlocks. The ability to rise above the emotion at the table and seek a new perspective — a new and plausible path forward — is a creative endeavor. Asking the “what if?” questions. Probing the “just imagine for a moment . . .” possibilities. Exploring the unimaginable and never-traversed paths can take you to new places with a new vantage point, allowing for renewed perspective with the prospect of moving forward to break the impasse. Stranger things have been known to happen.
A story my friend recounted about a real estate negotiation he was in illustrates this idea beautifully. Representing a buyer client amid a very competitive market in California, they were faced with a certain impasse. In a competitive, multiple-offer situation, the bidding war began. His client could not hang on any longer as the sale price inched up beyond their loan limit. With one last opportunity to submit a best and final offer, the agent explored new value elements they could compete on, other than price, that may be of interest to the seller. Not sure if it would work, they submitted their highest and best offer (knowing they were below the competition) and added one more concession: On their visits to the house, they noticed that the seller had cultivated a beautiful rose garden in their yard — clearly the result of many years of care and nurture. While his client valued the roses, they considered that, perhaps, the seller valued them more. So, with their offer, they agreed to have the roses professionally uprooted, transported, and replanted at the seller’s new home, fully paid for by the buyer. They won the bid!
When facing certain demise of the deal, why not try something extraordinary? Why not propose a solution so out of the box that it arouses that part of the human experience that causes people to sit up and say, “WOW! I never thought of that!” Now, I’m not suggesting throwing just anything out there simply for effect without being thoughtful. This is a creative process that requires your whole brain’s engagement — logic and emotion, empathy and exacting knowledge, giving full consideration and examination of the issues that excite the interests and inhibitions of both parties. It is not merely thinking out of the box; rather, it is creating boxes where none existed before.
Luke Roberts, an English actor playing the part of a crisis negotiator in the series Ransom (and having learned skills from real-world professionals) said that, “Conflict is good in a negotiation process . . . it's the clash of two ideas, which then, all being well, produces a third idea.” Interestingly enough (according to James Zull’s theory on changing the brain), that is also how our brain works when we create new ideas: We experience new things, reflect on them considering what we already know, and abstract from there to generate new ideas. This ability to create anew is uniquely and distinctly a human act and the secret ingredient in rescuing many deals from the dead zone and the brink of disaster.
The next time you think there is no path forward, adjourn. Get out of the box you’re in and away from the table. Reflect on the impossible, implausible, and fantastical. Just suppose you could . . . or they could . . . or what if we . . . or I wonder if they . . . In other words, get creative. Create new paths, new perspectives, new boxes to consider, and then propose something completely new. Stranger things have been known to happen.
It’s Not That Strange!
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About the author:
For Randy, the path to negotiation was one of dire necessity. As a realtor in Arizona, a region particularly hard hit by the 2008 housing crisis, he found himself in a position of having to negotiate for clients who were losing their homes to foreclosure. “It was a very challenging and emotional business environment,” he recalls. “Bank negotiators were the people I had to deal with. They had the skills and I did not. I learned in the trenches for the first year, and then I got training to make myself a better negotiator for me and my clients.”