Negotiation in a time of crisis


What we are currently experiencing in the world right now with the Covid-19 is exceptional. And it is exceptional for many reasons. We are reached by tragic news of deaths, illness, quarantines and companies who go bankrupt. But we are also reached by news of people, companies and governments who come together and does remarkable things. The world seems a little more crazy for every decade and even if people have always said that "this time it's different", we cannot get away from the fact that the current situation is changing people, companies, nations and societies.

Since these things do change, we as negotiators need to adapt to the changes and show flexibility in a time of crisis. And there are things we can learn from when it comes to negotiating in a time of crisis.

The initiatives we have seen from individuals and companies over the last couple of months are remarkable and it always strikes me how well people are able to cooperate in a time of crisis, and when we share a common fear. It brings us closer, and makes us more willing to see beyond our differences.

The more you will get to know my approach as a Negotiating Coach, the more you will understand that the concept of Win-Win in negotiations is not something I advocate. More of that to come, but when it comes to negotiation in a time of crisis, we should aim, not to take a Win-Win approach, but a Collaborative approach. We need to look at the bigger, and long term picture. Because after all, how can we leave our mark on the world, if there is no world to leave our mark on?

When we are facing a global crisis, the world slows down. When that happens we get more time to plan, to think and to discuss the future. Through discussions we are able to share and identify our common interests. To negotiate effectively in a time of crisis we need the ability to identify the common concerns and interests. That way we are able to take a collaborative approach to our negotiations, and at the same time erase the feeling of competition. By joining forces with counterparts that share our interests we are able to make 1+1=3.

What times of crisis brings to people and societies is lot of fear and uncertainty. And as smart negotiators, what we need to do is to reduce those feelings with our counterpart. We need our counterpart to feel safe. That can be achieved by communicating clarity and transparent and of course demonstrating empathy. Don't be shy about painting the reality and demonstrate understanding:

"Indeed, these are difficult times, and you probably feel scared and that your business is going to be affected. There will come an end to this, so what can we do to put us in as great position as possible when this is over?"

One important aspect of negating in a time of crisis is the importance of Informed decisions. Since crisis provides uncertainty and fear, this is not the time for assumptions. In fact, it's never time for assumptions when it comes to negotiations. We need to make our decisions based on information, and accurate information. Today, we can see that governments are maybe pushing more than ever to spread accurate and correct data so that people can make information based decisions. As negotiators in business, we should learn from this and make sure that we plan our negotiating approach and decisions based on accurate information with the long term perspective in mind. It's easy to be affected by our emotions in a time of crisis. So what we need to do, is to move from an emotional driven mindset, to a informed driven mindset.

There are of course multiple ways we can collect the accurate data, especially through valid sources online. But we can also use the most powerful tools we possess. We can ask questions. By asking questions such as How, When, Where, What and Why we are able to gather information from primary sources. Information that the we can use to make sustainable information based decisions.

What is your best advice when negotiating in a time of crisis?