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The Power of Understanding

Increasing Negotiation and Leadership Performance through the Power of Understanding


Laws of Power 3: Embrace the left and right brain

By Karen S. Walch, Ph.D.

A classic component in the acquisition of power is to expertly master your strategy and emotions. Impatience, for example, weakens a negotiator and is an impediment to the possession of power. The least powerful and most ineffective negotiators are those who are neither reflective about their strategic moves nor their own or others’ emotions. It is necessary in the laws of classic power to “train your eye to follow the results of others’ moves, the outward circumstances, and not be distracted by anything else.” The mastery of these skills opens up endless possibilities for deception and manipulation.

The majority of the negotiators I work with today have consistently pursued these same basic methods of self reflection about their strategic moves and their emotions in a negotiation. However, the power attained through this discipline of strong analytic skills and emotional and social intelligence is deployed not primarily for manipulation games, but most often for facilitation practices. The most common of personal and professional negotiations today require vital facilitation skills that require negotiators to achieve sustainable agreements which meet one’s own objectives and assist others to accomplish their own as well. A disciplined understanding of the strategic and emotional elements yields constructive negotiation relationships and workable solutions.

This level of talent is accomplished by what social neuroscientists say is leveraging the system of brain interconnectedness and coordination of left and right brain hemispheres. For example, when interpersonal competencies are built on specific neural circuits and related endocrine systems that inspire others to be effective and cooperative, the power to constructively influence others is increased. It may appear quite simple to coordinate left and right brain functions, but it requires disciplined attention, nurturance and practice.

It has become evident in the last decade that the basic research in neuroscience can now be understood and applied in such real-life situations as negotiation. This may seem pretty esoteric at first; however, believe it or not, I have found that many laboratory findings can be applied to practical negotiation situations.

One of the fundamental scientific discoveries is that the utilization of our whole brain can be a powerful tool in problem solving, especially in complex and ambiguous situations. For example, neither intricate personal nor critical contract negotiations can be managed alone with logic, linear, and computer-like thinking. Such negotiations also require key skills of self-knowledge, empathy and detection of human interaction subtleties.

By embracing the functions of both the left and right hemispheres of the brain, this can provide considerable guidance for not only our personal lives, but also our professional negotiation endeavors. The left hemisphere activities of analysis, rationality and logical planning enhanced with right hemisphere competencies of interpreting emotions and recognition of nonverbal expressions increase a negotiators’ power to facilitate mutual gains outcomes.

Successful negotiators I have interviewed conclude that not only do negotiators need to prepare in a logical and sequential way to communicate to and be understood by others, but they also need to think simultaneously about what is not verbally communicated.

Since 7 percent of communication is verbal and is processed by the analytical left part of our brains, the 38 percent body language and 55 percent of facial expressions need to be read by the right part of our brains. This nonverbal communication requires a right-brain skill to read what is often unsaid (which is a very prominent aspect of cross-cultural negotiation). If nonverbal messages and emotional cues sent via speech patterns and intonation, facial expressions and body posture are not adequately read by a negotiator, agreements are almost impossible to facilitate.

The skill development of both the right and left hemisphere of our brains is essential for negotiation planning, which analyzes the details and strategies (left) and the synthesis of the big picture and relationships (right). Both are essential to human reasoning and social interactions and successful negotiation processes. The biological underpinning called brain neuro links occur when negotiators consciously or unconsciously detect and attune to someone else’s emotions in a negotiation. This social and emotional intelligence is a powerful way to leverage the brain interconnectedness and the mastery of fostering positive emotions of cooperation and support necessary to accomplish your negotiation needs.

As we build on the physiology of brain performance from last week and the Tignum techniques, consider the questions below as a way to enhance the coordination of the left and right side of the brain. I also recommend Daniel Pink’s A Whole New Mind. This book outlines how power will increasingly shift to people who possess not only left-brain analytic capabilities, but also strong right-brain qualities. There are some entertaining activities to increase negotiation creativity through right-brain exercises in design, story, symphony, empathy and play. In addition, if you want to boost your brain power, attention, and vision, read Brain Rules.

Law 3 Exercises: Questions for reflection

1. Have you ever consciously thought about how to coordinate the contributions from both the right and left quadrants of the brain in your preparation for a negotiation?

2. Have you prepared for both the analytical and reasoning and strategy (left) about what you need and why you need it? And, have you prepared emotionally and socially (right) for how you will accomplish your negotiation goals when negotiating with others others?

3. Have you prepared for sequentially (left) and simultaneously (right) for the details of the “big picture” relationship and practical outcome of your negotiation?

4. What insight has occurred as the result of collaborative functions of both sides of your brain’s preparation?  What mental imagery skills can you adopt to create a more energized, meaningful and creative outcome?

48 Laws for 21st Century Global Negotiators: Join Thunderbird Professor Karen S. Walch, Ph.D., as she explores the laws of power for 21st century global negotiators. Each Monday she discusses one law and provides an exercise to identify and enhance individual negotiation power. Go to the main menu for the series.

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