When it comes to sitting around the negotiations skills table, we're all equal, right? In a perfect world, the answer would be yes. We don't live in a perfect world and so the answer is a very solid "no". So what does this mean for us - do some negotiators deserve to get more?
Where Negotiating Status Comes From
Where does this status thing come from? It seems to play a role in our negotiation styles and negotiations skills. I'm pretty sure that we're all very aware of the role that social status used to play in European society back in the day. You had your upper class folks and then the rest of humanity. If an upper class negotiator sat down to a negotiation with a lower class person, and then they would be starting with a huge advantage simply because of their social status. This would undoubtedly affect the final negotiations skills deal that was negotiated.
Those days are long gone - or are they? In Europe, as well as in places like India, although officially the social classes have been removed, traces still linger. When two negotiators from two very different backgrounds sit down to a negotiation, the ghosts of their families backgrounds can at times haunt the room.
Additionally, a new type of social status symbol has arrived on the scene. A person's success in life as represented by all of the "bling" that comes with success - money, power, negotiations skills, acclaim, etc. can elevate their social status. If you don't believe me, then just imagine how you would feel if you were sitting across from Donald Trump trying to negotiate a deal with him!
How You Can Deal With Status At The Negotiating Table
I'd like to be able to tell you to just ignore status when you are using your negotiations skills next time. Focus on the deal that you're trying to create and ignore who the person that you are negotiating with is or where they come from.
That's easy for me to say and very hard for you to do! It's never going to be easy for you to overlook the other side of the table's status - it's going to affect your negotiations skills. Instead, I'm going to suggest that you do something else that will help you to work through this issue.
In order to retain your composure when you are negotiating with someone who has more status than you, you need to boost your negotiations skills. The easiest way to go about doing this is to do additional work preparing for the negotiations skillstest. I have found that people with status often assume that their status is going to help them to reach a deal and so they will often not do as much preparation for a negotiation as they should have. Do your homework and you'll be better prepared than they are and their negotiations skills won't matter as much.
What All Of This Means For You
We do not live in a perfect world - we are not all equal. Instead, status and status symbols play a role in every negotiations skills - this is almost a part of the negotiation definition.
What this means for you as a negotiations skills practitioner is that you need to realize that status can play a role in how you both view and treat the other side of the negotiating table even when you are conducting a principled negotiation. You need to work to overcome any status advantage that they may have by working extra hard to prepare for the negotiation - you need to be the best prepared person at the table.
Status as something that makes people different is something that we'll always have to live with. As long as you know that this is an issue, then you can take steps to deal with it and make sure that it does not influence the negotiations skills outcome that you make.