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The Power of Understanding

Increasing Negotiation and Leadership Performance through the Power of Understanding


Laws of Power 14: Spot a Paradigm Shift

By Karen S. Walch, Ph.D.

In classic decrees about power, precise strategic thinking is the centerpoint and most celebrated talent and requirement of a successful negotiator. Carl von Clausewitz, 19th century strategist, noted that there are “very few people who are able to think beyond the present moment”; therefore, only those with the requisite analytic skills can increase their power. However, in the 21st century, research on intelligence and human potential increasingly has determined that we have reached the “edge” of what analytic thinking alone can achieve and sustain. Today’s negotiators face complex problems that require brain capacities beyond the limits of left brain logic or linear calculations alone. This week’s law addresses how negotiators today are reaching beyond the boundaries of “acceptable” science to enhance their fundamental critical and strategic thinking negotiation skills.

Recent findings in the field of social neuroscience, for example, and neuro linguistic programming (NLP) provide interesting insights about how the psychological, social and spiritual dimensions of brain functioning increase the quality of strategic thinking skills.

In the last decade many negotiators have used NLP techniques applied in the fields of influence, management training and negotiation. These practices have produced satisfying participant results, and NLP programs have become a lucrative business arena. Despite a debate about the scientific reliability of these methods, they continue to increase in popularity. These techniques focus attention on how to influence and build rapport with others in negotiation, for example, through awareness of the way we process information.

Negotiators who rely on NLP techniques find that interpersonal communication is enhanced significantly because persuasive logical arguments alone do not influence others effectively. NLP practitioners can observe a counterpart’s eye movement, nonverbal cues, and language use, for example, and learn to mirror, match and pace with that individual to build rapport.

The “VAK” framework is used to focus and mirror the visual, auditory, and kinesthetic tendencies of a counterpart. Through mirroring and matching, it is then possible to lead and influence another to cooperate, for example.

Cultural studies and social influence research has led to practices in negotiation which guide negotiators to adapt their own behavior through modifying one’s own internal cognitive processes. Observations of another’s eye movement and language are known by scientists to be indicators of different cognitive processes. If a right handed person says, “I see a bright future” and eyes look up left, a visual presentation would be the most effective with this individual.

These techniques serve as examples of the increasing paradigm shift in negotiation planning. Negotiation competencies not only include the intellectual analytic dimension of preparation, but also the psychological and social aspects. An expert negotiator is not reactive but develops specific goals and plans. In addition, negotiators who have behavioral flexibility and sensory acuity can respond to feedback and adjust behavior “on the fly.”

Given the demands of limited time for preparation, most negotiators rely on increased psychological and social capabilities for their success in a fast paced environment. Negotiators I have interviewed and observed point out that it is their curiosity and the ability to monitor and adjust their own emotions and behaviors which increases their sense of power and confidence in the pursuit of their personal and professional goals.

I have become increasingly intrigued and impressed with the discoveries about the human brain and mind. These new advances serve as an important connection between cognition and emotions with social behavior (like negotiation). Interestingly, much of these new findings originate from the “science” of hypnosis, another field of scientific debate. I sense a paradigm shift in the art and science of negotiation as it moves from a Newtonian world (all can be seen and explained in linear and material terms) to a Quantum one (where most elements are unseen and consist of patterns of energy and connectivity). Those of you who know this science better can expand on my definition here!

The point is that like ancient alchemists, Mesmer in the 16th century began to expound on the initial theories about hypnosis. He discovered that there was a strong connection between the mind and body and that this was associated with well being and health. He struggled with validation by the scientific community in the 16th century and many of the contemporary findings about the “unseen” continue to be dismissed in some circles. However, there is an increasing number of credible scientific meetings and publications devoted to an understanding about the human mind and the critical elements below the “iceberg” of social behavior.

Neuroscience research has nearly perfected the physiological maps of the brain and now searches for a theory of the mind, much less understood. Publication entries about spirituality and the brain, for example have increased significantly in the last five years. Recent advances in understanding about temporal lobe activity have informed the dialogue about spirituality in the scientific community. Like the research in hypnosis and self-monitoring of internal responses (in nonscientific terms, making choices!) humans can consciously chose to activate temporal lobe energies of love, peace, and connectivity over the primal fear of the amygdala.

I have interviewed many negotiators who claim that their ability to use the “brain to change the brain” yields increased power and satisfaction. This insight and transformative power to turn attention away from fear and separation toward optimism and unity appears to be the hope for our future.

Law 14 Exercise
Use the holiday season to observe how transformative moments can happen in small moments and in the midst of significant crises. Enjoy your unique way of celebrating the holidays of light and unity!

Extra Credit
For a practical reading on NLP, read Unlimited Selling Power: How to Master Hypnotic Selling Skills by Donald Moine and Kenneth Lloyd (Prentice Hall Press, 1990). For more information on the science of spirituality, read Fingerprints of God: the Search for the Science of Spirituality by Barbara Bradley Hagerty (Riverhead Hardcover, 2009).

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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