7 might avoid confrontation. Sometimes you are taken by surprise; at other times, there might be a chronic problem you need to address. For example, if your ex-husband regularly belittles you in front of your children, don’t just trade insults. Find a time when you can have a real conversation without interruption. Let him know how his remarks make you feel. Encourage him to talk about why he says these things. Ask questions, and make him feel heard. Then discuss your shared interest in the children’s happiness. Whenever possible, prepare in advance for difficult negotiations. First of all, know yourself. What are your hot-button issues? What is essential to you? What is unacceptable? Next, think about what you are likely to hear from your opponent and plan how you might react. Consider the following golf analogy. Jack Nicklaus says that every golfer should regularly take a lesson that focuses on basics such as grip and alignment, because if your setup is sound, there’s a decent chance you’ll hit a reasonably good shot. Similarly, every skilled negotiator should do a prenegotiation inventory. Ask yourself, What are my goals? What is my strategy? What is my walkaway point? Like the proper setup in golf, if you plan your negotiation with focused preparation, you improve your chances of ending up with a good outcome. Build a golden bridge. Once you have brought your difficult opponent to the table, you may need to build a “golden bridge,” Ury’s term for letting your opponent save face and view the outcome as at least a partial victory. Even when your boss comes into your office on Friday afternoon with an inconsiderate request, you need to say no in a way that conveys your respect for him as your boss. And you want your assistant to feel that you appreciate her contributions, even if you can’t agree to let her work at home. Finally, you want your ex-spouse to know that you value his parenting, even while you ask him to stop belittling you for the good of the children. So how do you help your difficult opponent save face, while still standing up for yourself? Ury suggests reframing the problem so that you draw your opponents in the direction you want them to move. By way of example, he relates a story told by filmmaker Steven Spielberg, who was relentlessly bullied by an older boy when he was about 13 years old. Spielberg figured he couldn’t beat . the bully at his game, which was to use physical force, so he changed the game, inviting him to play a war hero in a movie he was making about fighting the Nazis. As Spielberg describes it, “I made him the squad leader in the film, with helmet, fatigues, and backpack. After that, he became my best friend.” This illustrates a key concept: involve your opponent in finding a solution. It’s unlikely that a difficult person is going to accept your proposal fully, no matter how reasonable it is. Give him some choices: Would you prefer to meet at your office or mine? I could either pay a lump sum or make payments over time; which is better for you? Hostage negotiators look for ways to build rapport and let the hostage takers save face, with the hope that the hostage takers will become more reasonable. The negotiators listen attentively to what the hostage takers want, whether it’s an apology, a conversation with a loved one, a cup of coffee, or an acknowledgment of their grievance. The negotiators take careful notes, hoping to find something that will give them leverage. Similarly, you should pay careful attention to your opponent, realizing that some of her needs may be unstated. A business owner who won’t engage in problem solving to help close a deal to sell her business may turn out to have deep-seated ambivalence about selling. Realizing that, you might structure the deal as a joint venture, with a role for her in the new company. Listen to learn. If there is a common denominator in virtually all successful negotiations, it is to be an active listener, by which Ury means not only to hear what the other person is saying but also to listen to what is behind the words. Active listening is something frequently talked about but rarely done well; it is a subtle skill that requires constant, thoughtful effort. A good listener will disarm his opponent by stepping to his side, asking open-ended questions, and encouraging him to tell you everything that is bothering him. Beyond that, Ury says, “he needs to know that you have heard [and understood] what he has said.” So sum up your understanding of what he has said and repeat it in his own words. Ury points out that there is a big payoff for you: “If you want him to acknowledge your point, acknowledge his first.” And you may find you have little choice but to do this—how else to avoid a stalemate? 9 You don’t have to like them. Dealing with difficult people does not mean liking them or even agreeing with them, but it does mean acknowledging that you understand their viewpoint. Lakhdar Brahimi, a United Nations special envoy to Afghanistan in the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks, was given the daunting task of negotiating with warlords and others who had caused many deaths, to try to create a stable government. He spoke of the need to negotiate with difficult people: “The nice people are sitting in Paris… To stop fighting, you’ve got to talk to the people who are doing the fighting, no matter how horrible they are… If I don’t want to shake their hands, I shouldn’t have accepted this job.” Whether you’re negotiating with someone who is dangerously angry or only mildly annoying, the same skills are helpful in getting the results you want. Find out what your opponent wants and begin to build a case for why your solution meets her needs. If you’re successful, you can turn your adversaries into your partners. Breakthrough Negotiation In Getting Past No, William Ury outlines five steps for negotiating with a difficult opponent, whether it’s a boss, coworker, customer, salesclerk, or spouse. 1. Don’t react: Go to the balcony. When someone is difficult, your natural reaction might be to get angry—or to give in. Instead, take yourself mentally to a place where you can look down objectively on the dispute and plan your response. Anytime you find your hot buttons getting pushed, try “going to the balcony.” 2. Disarm them by stepping to their side. One of the most powerful steps to take—and one of the most difficult—is to try to understand the other person’s point of view. Ask questions and show genuine curiosity. 3. Change the game: Don’t reject—reframe. You don’t have to play along with a difficult person’s game. Instead of locking into a battle of will or fixed positions, consider putting a new frame on the negotiation. 4. Make it easy to say yes. Build a golden bridge. Look for ways to help your opponent save face and feel that he’s getting his way, at least in some matters. Using objective standards of fairness can help create a bridge between your interests. . 5. Make it hard to say no. Bring them to their senses, not their knees. Use your power and influence to help educate your opponent about the situation. If she understands the consequences and your alternatives, she may be open to reason.