How to Use Taoism in Negotiation
Taoist philosophy can, if used skillfully, give an added edge to negotiation in the business world or for conflict resolution. It can certainly offer many benefits in all facets of partnership negotiation. This guide will help you explore how Taoist philosophy can help you negotiate.
Pre-plan to save the face.This is very important as a face saving gesture for the people sitting opposite you in a negotiation is valued and is central in Taoist etiquette, so it is always important to make sure the other side has at least some positive outcomes - a win-win situation essentially.
- Ideally, as in all negotiations you should negotiate for what you want, but be prepared to fall back on what is an acceptable position to you, so it is important to know what that is. For example, you may like to negotiate for an extra per hour pay rise, but if .50 is acceptable, then aim for , but if always be ready to compromise to the position that you are comfortable with (eg. .50). It is important to consider what you can give up to help things along - you may take on extra duties for that pay rise.
Practice good qualities.Generally in Taoism, is is good conduct such as being timely, speaking with good faith, respectful, competent and your affairs are in good order. This makes other people more confident in dealing with you but also makes you more confident in dealing with them.
- Good conduct or propriety, as it is often known as, is a central quality in Chinese culture and is well respected due to its rarity and the personal development that you need to undertake.
Get into a good frame of mind.This may be to practice meditation, do some Qi Gong or Tai Chi, or just simply sit silently in the park and be around nature for a little while. This can help ease any tension or excitement, and can give a larger sense of perspective.
Take the other side out for a meal.Being generous and welcoming to the other side always softens any pre-existing hardness and a friendly environment over a delightful meal always gives a friendly outcome. If a meal is not possible, a morning tea or a simple coffee and doughnut can do the trick just as well. There is a lot of wisdom in the old term "bring something to the table".
Invite the other side to present their case first.This may need some friendly small-talk on your part to break the ice, but generally if you have settled them into a welcoming environment it is easier to do so. By listening to their case you can understand where they are coming from and can adapt your position to make a more harmonious outcome.
- The Tao te Ching suggests " ... Those who look only at themselves see little. Those who justify themselves are not distinguished. Those who boast have no merit. He who brags will not endure long...."
Use the humble position.This may mean the underdog role but more properly means a receptive role. In all negotiation situations, presenting a stiff, inflexible position of authority is the exact opposite position recommended by Taoist philosophy, especially if it is a partnership or a conflict you are negotiating. The aim here is to listen to the other side's position and see how you can adapt both positions to create a generous outcome.
- Naturally, wisdom is key in this area, because an unwise position of humbleness (often known as being a doormat) means people will try and take advantage of you in the business world, and in conflict, the person you negotiate with will not take you seriously. So balance is very important and you have to be aware of what this term means.
Be gentle.A softer attitude overcomes a harder one and so presenting a sincere gentleness not only shows a strength of confidence and prowess on your part, but also helps to breakthrough or at least soften inflexible positions on the other. Being cunning, overly strategic and lacking in trust are qualities that Taoism does not encourage, as they never lead to a good outcome.
- There is an important simile in the Tao te Ching; that favour and disgrace bring fear. This is because with favour or fortune, one is afraid of losing them, with disgrace or misfortune, they lead to a fear of greater difficulties. Essentially, you have to come to the table without any worries about your negotiation, otherwise they will cause obstacles.
Be hesitant.In all cultures only a fool rushes in, so although a good negotiator should have authority to deal directly, it can be wise to be hesitant in what you offer and to consult if necessary. Etiquette is very important as stalling a negotiation is not a sign of good faith, and if you aren't aware of all the facts then it puts you in a less able position, so this skill is better put as being patient, but also protect and honour where you come from.
- The Tao te Ching uses another beautiful simile as "...being hesitant as though crossing an icy stream; being watchful as though surrounded; being respectful, like a visiting guest"
Know when to stop.This is probably the most difficult of all because when you are on a roll, you can go too far and when you are not succeeding you may give away too much. The Tao te Ching is full of beautiful similes such as "Better to stop in time than fill to the brim; sharpen a knife to its sharpest and it will soon be blunt; display your treasures and no one can protect them" essentially means don't overplay your position, or talk too much.
Always move on.No matter what outcome you end up with, it is essential to move on and let today be today. That way you can do your work skillfully and not be hampered by past feelings, and that ability to move on lets you negotiate well.
Video: The Tao of Relationship Applying Tai Chi Principles to Team Building & Negotiation
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