When you focus on improving the working relationship, you are not trying to become friends with the other person, or to be liked. You are trying to make sure that, in spite of any personal feelings, the two of you are able to constructively deal with your disagreements and differences. Your aim is to create a relationship in which you can talk honestly with each other and work together to find good solutions to hard issues. Here are few tips to help you negotiate difficult matters.

Put aside

substance

The only way to resolve a relationship or communication issue is to directly discuss it. Many people hope to cure problems in their working relationships by coming up with the right substantive solution, thinking that if they get the right answer, they will get along better with the other person. In fact, it is quite difficult to discuss substantive issues when you and the other person do not trust, respect, listen to or understand each other.

A better approach is to realise that when you have significant relationship problems you should focus on improving the way you and the other negotiator communicate with or treat each other. Then return to the substantive issue.

Resolve issues

efficiently

Once you open the door, it is usually fairly easy to get most people to talk about the problems they see in the working relationship. Usually, they are as unhappy with the current situation as you are and are looking for some fair process to resolve the issue. Often, the simple act of talking about the problem, sharing perceptions of what is going on and why matters have degenerated to this point opens up new lines of communication. This type of conversation builds mutual understanding, which then provides you with room to find ways to improve the situation.

These conversations are never easy, but they can be quite effective. Try saying, “You always say I don’t get it. Well, this time I am listening. Tell me what it is that you think I don’t get.” The other person will be happy to provide a list of complaints. Then say, “Fine. I want to work with you to address those matters. I also want you to know that there are some important issues that I feel you don’t get. I’d like to share those with you now, and then we can discuss both sets of issues.”

After you have done the best you can to address the relationship issues, you will find a person with whom it is much easier to deal. Where before there may have only been stony silence, tension and stress, there should be more open dialogue and problem solving. Effective and good working relationships are essential to productive negotiations. If they do not exist, you have to take time to develop them. It will never be easy, but it is always valuable. — Michael Chaffers