With all the global political turmoil, we need savvy negotiators now more than ever. Getting the right job, negotiating new projects, or promotions are among the most significant challenges employees face. 

And there aren't that many good models out there. 

When I read Quantum Negotiation, by Karen S. Walch, Stephen M. Mardyks, and Joerg Schmitz, I knew the authors were on to something vital. In Quantum Negotiation, the authors present a model for a more sophisticated society and a more socially and emotionally competent business world. A world that seeks inclusivity, not divisiveness

I've interviewed lead author, Karen S. Walch, on what the model is, how we can use it, and its benefits for all of us. Karen is a partner of Clair-Buoyant Leadership, LLC and Emeritus faculty at Thunderbird School of Global Management. She is an expert in global negotiation, leadership, and social interactions. 

During our conversation, Karen described a negotiation where the use of QN had been particularly effective. You can view that portion of our discussion here. I enjoyed speaking with Karen and found the topic of Quantum Negotiation fascinating. I have shared the highlights of our discussion below:

Melissa Lamson: "I was struck by the term 'integrative or mutual-gains strategy.' And I also appreciate the way the model considers all five human dimensions; cognitive, emotional, social, physical and spiritual. But, in your own words Karen, what is 'Quantum Negotiation'?"

Karen Walch: "Quantum Negotiation (QN) expands mutual gains preparation from planning solely about the WHAT, WHY, and HOW to negotiate to an emphasis on WHO we are as negotiators. By discovering our cultural conditioning, negotiators face their genuine intention and switch from seeing counterparts as targets to fellow human beings.  

Anchoring and clarity about our thinking, feelings, behavior, and beliefs provide a solid foundation to be buoyant and to be able to style shift. In this way, negotiators relate and engage in more healthy ways with others. 

Michael Wheeler, one of the founders at the Harvard Project on Negotiation, in his foreword to our book, says that QN invites readers to reflect more deeply about the social nature of the personal and professional negotiation process. The activity of negotiation happens any time we share limited resources, create something new or solve problems together. Since negotiation is inherently a social activity, each of us brings our own conscious and unconscious preferences, beliefs, and behaviors which often undermine a mutual gains attempt." 

Melissa Lamson: "That's important, to know our own "cultural conditioning." Many people are blind to that and only feel it when they confront a different cultural context. What about Quantum Negotiation is uniquely helpful in a global or cross-cultural business context?"

Karen Walch: "In an era of disruption and exponential speed, the human capacity for critical thinking, social engagement, and stamina become extremely compromised. Just when more empathy for ourselves and others are required, we become defensive, irritable, and fearful.  Emotional and social skills are becoming more valuable than ever. 

The Quantum Negotiation paradigm is a way of looking at yourself and the world in ways we are that are invisible. QN transforms the unconscious or hidden ways we see our deepest needs and intended behavior by exploring our conditioning. Like in cross-cultural and global mindset, we have a QN profile that assesses a negotiator's direction or relative preference for task vs. relationships, direct or indirect communication, or seeing the big picture vs. the details in an agreement, for example.  

By understanding WHO we are as the result of our social upbringing and experiences, negotiators gain clarity about their own unconscious bias and how then can impact the way they behave, how to style shift and act in more trust building ways with global teams and counterparts. Leadership and negotiation success is a subjective experience." 

Melissa Lamson: "You mentioned emotional and social skills will become even more critical. What else will change about negotiating in the age of digital transformation?"

Karen Walch: "Digitization in almost every industry is an example of disruption that many leaders face now. It brings many new benefits and opening up many untapped new resources and ideas. New digital capabilities such as e-commerce platforms can significantly improve traditional customer-supplier and sales negotiations.  

Additional advances in automation, big data and analytics, and the Internet of Things (IoT) create other negotiated opportunities for substantial gains along the entire industry value chain. It does, however, ramp up the speed and required adaptation - as we said, it is pushing our human capacity to its limit.  

As a strategy, negotiators who intend to use mutual gains, problem-solving, and understanding approach will have to manage how fast they move through the preliminary phase of negotiation. This means slowing down enough not to control the agenda but to explore common interests and constraints and to jointly define the agenda. The strategy is to manage the anxiety and tension in such social interactions. A leader can plan to use their calm and willingness to style shift. This means less focus on coercive behavior toward more listening, questioning, and exploration tactics for an understanding strategy especially when under stress."  

Melissa Lamson: "Final thoughts?"

Karen Walch: "There is a growing community of individuals who have a mindset and practices which are replacing Machiavellian artifice, threats, and coercion, 'tough guy,' 'hide-and-seek,' or 'tricky games.' 

There is an evolution of negotiators today who are changing the practice of creating a strong negotiation presence through their personal growth, high-performance practices, and human potential aspirations. 

This mindset is founded on abundance, benevolence, and human connection which transforms individuals and relationships. I am excited to be a part of a growing community of negotiators who have shared their stories of how to be more conscious about treating themselves and others with dignity and playfulness." 

Some Tips to Prepare for Your Next Negotiation:

  • How do I think, feel, behave, perform, and believe - all human dimensions?
  • What are my targets, limits, and objectives?
  • What am I most concerned about? (i.e., respect, dignity, security, inclusion)
  • What if we don't reach an agreement, do I have plan B?
  • What strategy will I use? (i.e., manipulation, understanding, mutual gains)
  • Remember to explore all these for your counterpart as well.