The year that changed us forever had a devastating impact on so many people and businesses. While the depth of that devastation is almost unfathomable, even in our darkest imaginings, rays of light came shining through. Being an optimist at heart, I can’t help but think about the silver linings that appeared, which I hope have changed us for the better and for good. Those silver linings have had a profound impact not only on our personal lives, but also at the negotiating table.
In my humble opinion, here are the three best lessons to come out of the past year.
Connection. Almost immediately after the pandemic hit, we initiated virtual happy hours and Zoom parties. When everything started to shut down, it forced us to reach out. Personally, I reconnected with a lot of people I hadn’t spoken to in a very long time. At the negotiating table, we couldn’t help but check in with each other. Everyone inherently knew that the pandemic had an impact on the person they were negotiating with, and it forced us to stop and see how they were doing. While I have no data to support this claim other than my own observations, it seemed to help build rapport and, in many cases, increase trust among the dealmakers.
Humanizing business. With everything going virtual simultaneously, we all found ourselves at home, on video calls. I was taking meetings in other people’s living rooms, kitchens, bedrooms, backyards, and garages. I met dogs, cats, kids, significant others, and even a grandparent or two. It was a great reminder that business is really about people just trying to do their jobs. The pandemic brought them out from behind their titles and desks. At the negotiating table, it was a gentle reminder that there are always multiple priorities at play, in particular those of the organization and those of the human being sitting across from us.
Listening. In our new, virtual world, the modality of communication forced us to pause and listen to each other. When we were meeting in person, it was too easy to talk over each other (or, as we saw a lot of in 2020, shout over each other). But in a virtual world, we had to stop and let the other person speak, or else it would’ve been impossible to converse. This helped bring more voices to the table. All of a sudden, introverts had a voice and the big personalities were a little less overbearing. It seemed to create a little more balance. In our negotiations, this method of communicating has helped us to be more in tune with the other party, as we’re better able to hear them.
As the pandemic hopefully continues to downgrade and we begin to adjust to our new new normal, including how we negotiate, I’m optimistic that most of these silver linings can remain. All it takes is a little diligence. And while I wish that we could’ve avoided the pandemic altogether, I’m grateful for the lessons learned regarding connecting, being more human, and listening to each other. What a difference a year makes.
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