Lam: Is the bottom line to keep everybody feeling good?
Voss: It is because the profitability of any agreement, the success of any agreement, comes from implementation. And you need happy partners because you need them to implement. So you only find out if you make your money after the agreement when you go to implement it. And if they're mad at me, if they're unhappy with me, then that implementation is horrible. Every chance they get to not do something, they're going to cut a corner, or they're going to deny me a benefit because they're going to be mad about how I got them into the agreement. They're going to remember how I got them into the agreement. I know they're going to remember how we got into it. I need them to remember it in a positive way.
Lam: So you're also saying that people hold grudges?
Voss: It's deeper than that because they might not need to. Somebody might not hold a grudge. What you're really looking for is not just people to do what they're supposed to do, but when they need to go out of their way for you, they may simply just not go out of their way when they could have. They may not have given you that extra. That's not necessarily holding grudges. We look at somebody who's holding a grudge and just waiting to get us back to do something to us. Maybe all they're going to do is simply fail to help us out when they could have.
Lam: Do you focus on fairness?
Voss: That's really tricky. We call fairness the "F-word." Fairness is the "F-word." Well, and actually, if you start to listen for it, you'll find that fairness comes out on almost every single negotiation, and when it gets thrown out there, it's a word that punches people's buttons in one of the most subtle ways possible. And so people use it in one of two ways. If I'm a negotiator, I'll use it against you because I know that I can knock you back on your heels emotionally. If we're in a deal, and I want to be a cutthroat, I'm going to say, "Look, I've given you a fair offer." Now, for you to protest against that, what I've just done is accuse you of being unfair towards me. And that's why the cutthroats do it because nobody sees it. It is a stealth attack from a cutthroat negotiator.
Knowing that it's there and knowing that it comes up in every negotiation, again we've got to be proactive about it. And so, instead of me saying, "What I offered you was fair." Before I get to the offer, I'll say, "I want to make sure you feel I've treated you fairly. And the minute you think I haven't, I want you to tell me." Not only do you give that out, you encourage them to take that out.
I was coaching a client in an internal compensation negotiation recently, where he knew they were trying to give him less than what they owed him, and he needed to make his case as to why they were wrong. So what I told him to do was, I said at the very beginning, you tell them that if at moment you're being unfair with them, for them to stop you. And what he did was then he laid out his entire case without interruption when otherwise they would've been looking to interrupt him. And then because all his points were valid, then when he shut up. He went silent. He did what we call an 'effective pause.' Their reaction was, well, there wasn't anything that you said that was unfair. So it tends to keep people in sort of a rational frame of mind and make them more open to listening to you.
That's the emotional calculation you're going for. Either the "F-word" is going to come out, after people are upset and they throw out the "F-word" you know that not only are you in trouble at the moment you've been in trouble for a while. Or you take a proactive approach and you diffuse it before the missile gets launched.