There’s a quote I keep in mind every time I help my clients navigate the tricky art of negotiations. It’s by Adriana Doyle, and it goes, “The only difference between stumbling blocks and stepping stones is the way in which we use them.”
In a disagreement or negotiation, a great deal of energy is wasted focusing on where two parties disagree. Whether it’s a tussle between a buyer and seller or partners in a relationship, our worst instinct is often to hold fast and point out where opinions and conditions differ. It makes resolution seem almost impossible at the outset.
Rather than beginning negotiations by pointing to conflict and difference, why not start by directing attention to common ground? If compromises have been made in the past, wouldn’t it make sense to highlight where two parties have found mutually agreeable terms, and begin there?
It’s a small shift, but an important one. By focusing on past successes and shared views, you set the stage for overcoming the present disagreement. Beginning with stories of resolution, rather than the bleak prospect of insurmountable differences, you set the tone for a favorable outcome. You help both parties visualize the time to come when both sides have put strife and tension behind them.
Though the attribution has been lost over time, there’s also a quote that goes, “riding is the art of keeping a horse between you and the ground.” Negotiating a deal successfully requires an intuitive grasp on where you want to go. While it’s been helpful for me in real estate, I expect we could apply this lesson in many other areas of our lives. How we begin can often dictate where we end up. I say begin with common ground.