Finally I have reconciled my love of detective fiction with ADR in this new series “What Miss Marple knows…about Negotiation”. Over the years, I have eagerly watched each iteration of Miss Marple bring their own personality and physicality to the character. Across all the Marples, there are some constants. In the next few weeks, I will be using Miss Marple as a lens for negotiation skills.
This week, the “4.50 From Paddington”, which was made for television with Geraldine McEwan and her birdlike attributes, with Margaret Rutherford (in “Murder, She Said”) and with Joan Hickson (my personal favourite).
As those who have read the book / seen the filmed versions will know, whilst sitting in a train Miss Marple (or a friend, depending on the version) watches as another train flashes past. In one carriage, a woman is being strangled. Although the authorities are alerted and the train is searched no body is found and the story is dismissed as a story dreamt up by an excitable, old spinster. The viewer must have fallen asleep while reading her detective book and dreamed up the murder.
For some little old ladies, the belittling attitude of the police would be enough to deter any further action. But not for Miss Marple. One of her key qualities is tenacity.
The ability to persevere in the face of obstacles is a quality much needed by negotiators. I recently read Chris Voss’s “Never Split the Difference”. As an FBI hostage negotiator, Voss worked in life and death negotiations. He explains how when people hear ‘no’ in a negotiation (or mediation) they crumble as they believe that the negotiation is over. It can lead to a party stopping the process or becoming disconsolate. Voss argues that ‘no’ is the start of a negotiation and not the end. He argues that we need to learn to persevere.
In mediation, I can see this happen for parties in real-time. A proposal may be rejected and both parties will feel that this is the end of the negotiation. They are ready to give up because the other person did not offer what they wanted, or accept what they offered. They sometimes say, “I knew this wouldn’t work”. Their fears are confirmed. It is the end.
In reality, it is the beginning. Negotiation is a process, a dance, and it requires multiple steps. As a mediator, when a party rejects a proposal, I try and coach the party for a “no, and…”. Rather than just reject a proposal, parties need to persevere and make a counter-proposal. This is the dance element of negotiation. It requires perseverance from parties.
Are there elements of the proposal which can be built upon for a counter-proposal? Are there issues which were not addressed which could be add-ons to the counter-proposal which may be relevant for one or other party? What would be easy for you to offer which would have value for the other side?
Miss Marple would know that in negotiation, perseverance is a virtue.