If you’re a Pastor, when you hear the word, “negotiation”, the first thought that comes to your mind is dealing with your church board. That’s where probably 80% of your negotiating efforts are applied. Other negotiating with the media for advertising space, fair and unbiased event coverage. Negotiating with landlords for optimum leasing and rental agreements, property sellers and contractors when you’re in a building program.
Odds are, you’ll find yourself negotiating with local and public officials from time to time. (Especially those in Planning and Zoning). And, you’ll need the qualities of a skilled negotiator when you’re negotiating with your choir director and ministers of music. Basically, we need to negotiate whenever it seems like our goals and another party’s goals are in goals are in opposition. Whether it’s you verse your official board, local country and public officials, the news media or simply your teenage child who wants unlimited phone use, you’ll need to learn how to negotiate skillfully and smoothly.
Fortunately, successful negotiators rely on the same skills regardless of the specifics of the negotiating situation. The same principles apply to all negotiations.
- “What wouldest thou I should do for you?” Before you come to the negotiating table, know SPECIFICALLY what it is you want. WHY you want something, it will prepare you to know if you can get the same benefit any other way.
For example, you want a designated Pastor’s parking place in front of your church, near the door. A nice little “Reserved for Pastor Davis” sign would be nice too. The Board wants to leave that space designated as a “visitor space.” You analyze why you want that space and discover that it’s because you’re frequently running late, you have to walk through the rain to get into the church and you can’t afford to be blocked in the parking lot by other members’ cars. Now you know that, if you absolutely can’t get the space by the front door, you can achieve the same benefits by having a designated parking place next to the back door or by a side entrance. So, once you know WHY you want something, you’re able to know what you’ll SETTLE for, in a worse case scenario. (In our example, the board is like to suggest that all you need is an umbrella!)
- “What shall I liken this generation to?” Find a simple metaphor to describe your situation. An apt metaphor is one of the most persuasive tools you can have in your arsenal. Like, “I feel like I’m being asked to make bricks without clay.” Or “Like I’m a one-legged man in a dance contest.” The metaphor will change and grow with the negotiation. When they make a concession, add it to your metaphor. “Now, at least I’m being told where to find some clay…” or “That could be a walking stick for the one-legged man…” The right metaphor is a power tool in skillful hands. That’s why Jesus used them so prolifically.
- “Look not every man at his own things…” You need to know what the other party REALLY wants. You might THINK that they want to keep you from having the parking place you want. In reality, it can be simply that they want to see you grove. This is a factor more often than you’d think in Pastor/Board negotiations. Once pastor I know gets almost anything he asks for: He’s learned how to pretend he’s powerless and at the mercy of his all wise and all-powerful administrative board! Since he knows what they really want and gives it to them, both sides stay happy.
Here’s 2 reasons why you need to do this: First, if you jump at their first offer, you’ve set yourself up as an “easy mark” for future negotiations. They’ll feel like they offered you too much and will make you pay for it in the next deal. You can be sure that the next time they’ll offer you significantly less than they did this time. Even then, that’s not the most important reason. Even more important than their need to not perceive you as a chump is their need to feel like they’re shrewd and aren’t being pushed around by a demanding and pushy minister. To put it bluntly, they need to come away feeling that they’ve won and kept you in your place. Let the other side come away from the negotiations feeling great about themselves and their abilities. Let them come away feeling like winners. They’ll love you for it.
- “Ask and thou shall receive.” Be bold. When you know what you really want, add to it. That way, you can make concessions, be a nice guy, let the other side “win” and STILL get what you want.
Using the example from point one: You WANT a designated parking place outside the front door of the church. You ASK for a COVERED parking place in front of the church…a car port with a gate on the front of it make sure you can always have a sheltered space. (Who knows, maybe they’ll give it to you). This way, they can nibble away at your request and ONLY give you the parking place, which is what you wanted in the first place. ALWAYS ASK FOR A WHOLE LOT MORE THAN WHAT YOU’D SETTLE FOR.
When you’re asking, give your REASONS for asking first. Then make your proposal. Giving reasons first cuts out potential objections. If you give the proposal first, the other side will attack your proposal if you give two or three good reasons, not your proposal.
“You gentlemen are aware that we have a parking problem. How people who need to see me stop me in the parking lot to ask me questions. Plus, when it’s raining not only do my family and I look like drowned rats…but my sermon notes get unreadable. We all end up feeling so bad. Something that would solve all of this would be a simple covered parking place near the door of the church, so we can all make the best use of our time and resources.”
When giving reasons, use FEELINGS that you have. People can’t argue with how you feel. “I feel guilty that…; I feel terrible about…” Successful negotiators freely talk about their feelings. Unsuccessful ones talk about cold facts.
- “David feigned that he was mad…” React. When the other side makes a demand or unreasonable request, you MUST know how to react strongly. Overreact! Otherwise, they’ll think that all they must do is be firm and unmoving and you’ll cave in. Here’s where many otherwise intelligent clergy blow it. We’re experts at appearing calm and peaceful. When the other side makes an unreasonable proposal, we must immediately be able to react in shock, surprise and indignation, if called for. “You want me to do WHAT?! Surely you’re joking!” And then shut up!
Treat their demand as something they’re just throwing on the table to see how you’ll react. Don’t take it any more seriously than that because odds are, that’s EXACTLY what’s going on. If you calmly acquiesce, what you’ve just received will be their first and final offer and you’ll hear from them is “take it or leave it.”
- “Take up thy bed and walk…” Be prepared to walk. If you reach an impasse, the other side will be waiting for your reactions. You HAVE to be prepared to calmly and slowly gather your briefcase and coat and announce you’re forced to suspend negotiations at this point.
That is, of course, unless they can make a small concession. (You’ll do without the GATE on your covered parking spot, IF they can provide traffic cones, instead!) Let them know that you’re reasonable; you WANT to talk it out and come to a resolution.
- “What will a man give in exchange…?” Never make a concession without it costing the other side SOMETHING. Never give anything away for free. If you do, it makes it seem as though what you’re asking for is just a whim. They’ll rightly feel like you’re just trifling with them. When they finally agree to talking to you about your parking place, but they won’t even CONSIDER the car port idea. MAKE A DEMAND. Don’t say, “Great! At least I’ll have my own parking place!” Instead, does your grimace, sigh, look dejected and say, “Well, If I MUST do without protection from the elements THIS YEAR, how about if you provide me with a new overcoat and an umbrella? That would make us a whole lot closer.”
Here’s what you’ve done:
- You’ve just raised the value of the concession you made. You made it seem like your original proposal wasn’t in the least outrageous.
- You might have just gotten yourself a new overcoat and umbrella.
- You’re asking for something in return has stopped the chiseling away process. Once they know that every time, they ask for something, you’re going to ask something in return, they’ll stop asking for concessions.
- “Gather up the fragments that remain…” After you’re pretty much through the negotiation, you can ask for smaller things that you never could have gotten at the outset. When they think the negotiations are over, they’re the most open and vulnerable. (So are YOU, so look out).
This is when you can ask for the overcoat to be a grey one and for the “reserved” sign to have your name lettered in a nice script or for the carport (did you get it, or did you “settle” for a car cover) to be put up at the parsonage, so you can get to church earlier? (In the north, it takes several minutes for you to scrape the windows in the winter. In the south, it takes a full ten minutes for the car to cool down to a comfortable temperature.
- Have a few concessions you’re willing to make, so the other side can feel like they really drove a hard bargain. If they let you, just ask for things and get them, they’re going to resent you. Remember, the other side has feelings and egos too. They wouldn’t feel right if it seems like they lost to you, a mere minister. So, you need to give them something to help them feel better about their abilities as “hard drivers.” So, you offer to do something special. Maybe it’s to “ok” a project that you know they feel strongly about. Learning to improve your negotiating skills is one of the best uses of your time and resources. You can’t be more effective or more persuasive than when you’re negotiating well and THAT’S non-negotiable.