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Inside Voices, Please. PLEASE?

Published: Oct 18 , 2021
Author: Randy Kutz

Negotiation learning opportunities can be observed all around us. While at the grocery store the other day, I overheard a dad (with a whispering tone) remind his rambunctious toddler to use his “inside voice.” It reminded me of a particular negotiation . . .

On a recent overnight stay at an Airbnb with a large group of friends, I had a front-row seat to a conflict between the contracted guests (my friends Tom and Sally) and a next-door neighbor. Apparently, we were not using our inside voices. But that was because we were outside, after all. We escaped to Flagstaff for an overnight to get out of the heat and enjoy a cool evening on a sprawling patio of this very large house. Great friends, plenty of libations, sparkling conversations, good times . . . for us.

As I mentioned, this was a very large house, but it was on a very small lot. And the only barrier between our house and the neighbor’s was a thin row of saplings. Needless to say, the welcome wagon was not showing up on that memorable evening.

After dinner, the gathering moved to the patio to stargaze the dark Flagstaff sky as the tobacco smokers in our group lit up. We’d been on the patio only a short while when our conversation was interrupted by a voice. We couldn’t see where it came from in the dark of night — we could only hear the general direction. It was the neighbor, appealing to us (with a whispering tone) to use our “inside voices.” We all looked around at one another, and then at Tom and Sally, since they were the contracted party on the rental. Tom replied in the general direction of where the neighbor’s voice came from: “OK, we’re so sorry. We’ll try to keep it down.”

We all returned to a quieter conversation for a few minutes, only to be interrupted again by the voice. This pattern repeated itself a few times over the next several minutes: conversation, appeal, reply. Each time, the voice made a different appeal of personal persuasion based on the neighbor’s self-interest to get us to do what they wanted (i.e., go inside).

“You need to go inside because . . . it’s late . . . I’m a light sleeper . . . our bedroom is right here . . . I get up early . . .” With an empathetic tone but unwavering resolve, Tom and Sally maintained their position: “We’re so sorry. We’ll try and keep quieter.” They truly were not trying to be indifferent, but they were also not motivated to move inside. They felt we had a right to be there, and they weren’t compelled by the arguments to undo their position. Then the leverage shifted.

The voice called out from the darkness with one more appeal — and it was no longer whispering. The appeal was different. Now, the voice played to Tom and Sally’s self-interest, instead of the neighbor’s, and it triggered what motivated our hosts. This time, the neighbor’s argument was singular. It was objective. It was non-emotional. It was the rules.

Here was their appeal . . .

“I know the contract you signed states a quiet-time cutoff of 10:00 pm. It’s now 10:15. I also know the owner of the house. You need to go inside now, or I will have to contact the owner and your deposit will be in jeopardy.”

Armed with this new information, Tom and Sally’s reply was simple: “Understood. We are going inside now.”

People are not as easily motivated to alter their position when the reason for doing so is based on the other party’s self-interest alone. Rather, they’re motivated by their own self-interest. If we try to motivate people solely based on our self-interest, it requires the other party to be aligned with our self-interest, see our position as reasonable, and be open to being persuaded along with a willingness to acquiesce. This will rarely happen in negotiation.

As a negotiator, your job is to find out what motivates the other party, and knowledge can be so powerful. When a negotiator is armed with powerful knowledge, they can leverage it in exchange for getting their own needs met.


We Can Help You Learn What Motivates the Other Party — and Leverage That Knowledge to Get What You Want.
In negotiations, people are not easily motivated to alter their position when the reason for doing so is based on the other party’s self-interest alone. Rather, they’re motivated by their own self-interest. If you can find out what motivates the other party, you can leverage that knowledge to get your own needs met. We can help! Drawing on 46 years of real-world negotiating experience, we’ll assist you with getting better deals, saving time, and creating value for all involved — not to mention preserving and even strengthening relationships. Let us partner you with one of our advisers, ensuring that you’ve got the broadest view of your deal.


Talk to one of our experts today.


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About the author:

Randy Kutz
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.”

Read more about Randy Kutz

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I can’t wait for the New Year to tell you all about a personal negotiation I was just in that sent my blood boiling! The deal isn’t completely done yet, so I don’t want to jinx it. (In case you’re wondering, no, I’m not superstitious — that would be bad luck.) However, in this deal, something happened that triggered an immediate and angry response. I bring it up because even as a highly trained and experienced negotiator, my emotion was getting the better of me. That is, until I did the following . . .

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