In Herb Cohen's excellent book Negotiate This! By Caring, But Not T-H-A-T Much he states, "Beyond a doubt all human beings perceive, discover, and create their realities according to the maps or paradigms they have in their minds." This is a fundamental principle that we create our "own realities." This is why the actual facts of a situation are often not as important as what is perceived. Perception is often reality to most people. Because of this, it is natural for a person to ascribe their own beliefs and values to the people they deal with in a negotiation workshop.
People will tend to believe their concerns and aspirations during a negotiation will be the same as the other party's, which is almost never the case.
While it is natural to do this, we must guard against this inclination because this often inaccurate projection will lead to negotiation workshop problems that may have easily been avoided, or at least minimized, by recognizing the problem and opening communications with the opposing negotiator.
So what do you do to keep from imposing your beliefs, values, concerns, and aspirations to those with whom you encounter in a negotiation workshop? Ask questions!
During a negotiation workshop, especially during the beginning stages, you want to elicit concerns, interests, preferences, and needs from the other side. You do this by asking questions. Ask them even if you think you know the answer.
You might be surprised, and it is only through asking and listening to the answers that are provided in the negotiation workshop that you can actually determine what the other side's "reality" is.
Then you can determine if it matches yours, is completely opposite, or somewhere in the middle. This gives you a better understanding than you would have had otherwise as you proceed through the negotiation workshop.
While you are finding this information out, you also have the opportunity to build a better relationship with those you are negotiating with. This relationship building will help both sides get better results in a negotiation workshop. You can help build this relationship by actually caring about their positions and needs. You communicate this to them by showing them, and this means displaying empathy and understanding.
This is achieved through active listening. Look at them when they talk; smile and nod when appropriate; ask clarifying questions. Most of all, really care! After all, they have something you want and you have something they want. If you didn't, you would not be in a negotiation workshop with each other. Therefore, you really should care about them and not just yourself. Care about them and realize their reality is not the same as yours and you will go much further in your negotiation workshop.