Negotiating from Strength 

Jack Lyons, Founder and President

By Jack Lyons
President, Lyons Solutions LLC

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We each have a little bit of a tendency to want to defend whatever position we have taken. That's only natural. But nature, or maybe its physics, shows us the amazing power of staying neutral.

atom.jpgTake for instance the atom. In its atomic structure there are three forces: there's the electron, which produces the negative force; the proton, which produces the positive force; and the neutron, which always stays neutral. Within the structure of the atom, the proton and the neutron are basically bound together and create the nucleus of the atom, around which the electron travels at great speed. A negative force moves easily from one place to another. Electricity is a great example of this because electricity is a function of electrons transferring through a conductor from one atom to the next. Electrons, the negative force, are very mobile, elastic even throughout all of physics.

The neutral and positive forces, protons and neutrons, are more stable, less moveable. That is unless the nucleus, the proton and the neutron are separated. When this separation happens, a violent atomic energy is unleashed. Who hasn't heard of the atomic bomb?

The connection between the positive and the neutral is where the real strength comes from in business. But we still need the negative to be there to maintain balance. We humans are sometimes too open to the negative, with the result being a severe response separating the neutral from the positive.

The real power in negotiation is in being the observer, without judgment and without a position. The true observer gains power from seeing all valid positions and remaining neutral. Remember, there is no up without down; no good without bad; no success without failure; no fast without slow and no happy without sad. Hot and cold are the same thing, they're just opposite ends of temperature. Win and lose are the same thing as well, they're just the opposite ends of the experience of a game.

The best negotiators accept the opposite and incorporate it into their own position. How do they do this? The answer is: they remain neutral. And neutral means neutral, because they just don't care if no deal is made. They're not attached to a win-lose deal in which they give away the farm in their desperation for success. Because neutral is an attractive force, it is always the most effective in a negotiation. If you look at negotiation from a nuclear physics viewpoint, the neutral is automatically attached to the positive and the negative is brought in to create a balance, but the link between the neutral and the positive is where the power is.

The power aspect of neutrality is that it allows you to be an observer who is open to all possibilities. You can hear the other side of the story and see whole-system solutions.

Neutrality also allows, not forces, the results to move toward a productive outcome, which can be to make a deal or not make a deal. It allows the best possible outcome for both parties to emerge. A skilled negotiator never has to make a deal happen. He can always say "I would have loved this to work, but it doesn't seem to work for both of us, so I'm happy to just take a step back."

Over the years, we've supported our clients' best interests in over 130 acquisition transactions. We've often advised an owner not to accept an offer from an interested buyer for their company because we felt that the offer was not in the owners' best interest for one reason or another. It could be that the offer was not for enough money versus what we thought the business should bring. Or we thought the structure of the offer was not favorable to our client. Or we thought that the cultural match was not what it should be. Or the timing of selling the company wasn't ideal. Often times, our client was on the same page as us before we even had that conversation. Our clients make better decisions when being neutral and objective.

So the next time you're in a negotiation, give yourself the time you need to step into the world of neutral so that you lose all sense of needing it to go a certain way and the best outcome can emerge.

If you'd like to strengthen your negotiating skills, contact Jack Lyons at (941) 497-4700.

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