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Wharton’s Mori Taheripour on how to negotiate the right way • londonbusinessblog.com

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Mori Taheripour teaches negotiation at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, where she taught undergraduate, MBA and executive MBA students how to conduct better business conversations. Taheripour has also coached corporate clients, including on behalf of Goldman Sachs and Major League Baseball, on how to feel more confident and comfortable when negotiating, a skill everyone uses every day but often seen as a kind of dark art.

Against the backdrop of one of the most prominent negotiations in recent history, focusing on Elon Musk’s ongoing stop-and-go plans to buy Twitter, and aware that many readers are currently negotiating on their own behalf – for more time, more funding, a better exit package, less investor protection – we spoke to Taheripour earlier this week to ask where negotiations tend to falter and how they can help succeed. Excerpts from that chat follow edited for length and clarity.

TC: You have been an expert in dispute resolution and negotiation for over ten years. You too published a book on the topic during the pandemic that has been well received. For people who haven’t read it, is the ability to negotiate well somewhat intuitive or completely learned?

It’s something you learn, and I actually think most people are better negotiators than they think because we do it so often. It’s only when we see negotiations through the lens of things that are really transactional and perhaps conflict sensitive that people put negotiations into a category of things that people don’t really enjoy or that they really fear or feel really uncomfortable about, and they don’t want to. to put it off. But any parent, anyone in a relationship, anyone who has employees, anyone who has a pet. . . is probably very good at negotiations.

What are some of the most common missteps people make during a business negotiation process?

The core of all negotiations is human connection. That’s where the magic happens. Most negotiations are not transactional. The best negotiations are either fostering relationships we already have or creating new ones. And once you look at it that way, negotiations become a conversation. Some conversations are harder than others. But it shouldn’t be if we open our minds to them with a sense of empathy and want to be creative and not focus on one solution.

It’s building bridges. It comes to an understanding. It is joint problem solving. It’s decision making. I always tell people that this is the last thing to be afraid of.

Your book is about how to “negotiate fearlessly,” but the line between fearless and overconfident is thin. Are there any tips for readers who may be wondering how to cross that line?

Much of this goes back to negative self-talk and self-sabotage. You will not be an excellent negotiator just because you are smarter and have a higher IQ. Being an excellent negotiator really starts with going your own way. Great negotiators are great storytellers who can see themselves from a place of value and stand up for themselves fearlessly.

If you don’t believe in yourself, if you don’t fearlessly understand your own self-worth, the goals you set for yourself shrink. They become safe. They can even get mediocre. And once your goals are toned down and secure, then what you ask will reflect those goals, and you won’t get enough of them.

The moment you give up your power, you withdraw to make the other one [party] happy or to avoid conflict – then you can’t stay in the conversation. You need to feel confident that the two of you are part of this conversation and that your space is just as important as theirs. It doesn’t mean those two things are mutually exclusive; it means looking for solutions that are mutually inclusive.

For people who are in an M&A like situation right now, what do you make the adage to never take the first offer, to get 20% more? Are any of these really relevant?

The way I teach is not prescriptive at all. I don’t believe in always, and I don’t believe in never.

The older we get, our gut feeling gets stronger and our intuition and emotional intelligence get stronger. We should be using these to navigate conversations, rather than trying to remember what a class professor said. Being so locked in creates a lot of fear, especially because no negotiation is the same, and the person sitting across from you, that audience, is always different.

Elon Musk has seemingly been trying to negotiate with Twitter, on Twitter, to either lower the price or get out of the deal or buy himself some time, who knows. Anyway, making the conversation – or part of it – so public is of course inherent in the design and I wonder if this will become some sort of case study for future negotiations.

He plays by completely different rules. Five or ten years ago, this would probably be a nightmare for shareholders and companies, because you want to hold onto what’s happening until it’s all over and then make it public. But what’s quite traditional is that he sets his own story and the messages that come out are his, no matter how confusing.

If you think about it, he’s been testing the water for much longer than the six months since he suggested buying Twitter. Every time he says something about Tesla stock, the prices change; people react immediately. So I think he saw the power he had in literally changing markets [by using Twitter].

Do you think there’s a master plan here? Do you see any logic in this chaos?

Frankly, I was incredibly surprised when the deal fell apart – and a lawsuit was looming and things got messy and he tried to walk away. I thought sure if the deal happened [after that], the stock price or the valuation of the deal would at least be a lot lower. When [the deal was suddenly] back and it was not lower, I was stunned.

What I can tell you is that I don’t think Elon Musk does anything by accident. I think there was good intention. Twitter is this incredible platform for communication, and if you can somehow master that, that’s a lot of power. For a man who somehow controls transportation, [and] the future of space, I don’t think he woke up one day and said, ‘Oh, maybe I should buy Twitter.’ I think this has been in his head for a long time. And I think he clearly sees its value, perhaps in a way none of us can even imagine.

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