3 Martial Arts Lessons for Negotiation


You might wonder what martial arts and conversation have in common. As a lifelong martial artist, I constantly use lessons from various martial arts to help me in my professional life. One of the most common themes that runs through all martial arts is the silence of the “self”. Martial artists meditate to calm themselves and become more attuned to the processes of themselves and the world around them.

Negotiators must also be careful, especially if they want to be successful. When you’re all talking and pushing, you’re a rock or a stone. Whereas when you are water, you take on whatever shape you want. It automatically puts you in control, even if it requires patience and time. You can be up for anything without being blocked by your thoughts and senses.

If you are stressed or distracted by planning and anticipation of your next move toward your opponent, you are more likely to get hit. Likewise, if your thoughts and senses hinder you in conversation, you are more likely to brush off your position, strategy, and point of weakness. But if you come ready to listen with full openness, you start to notice things. You find openings in the arguments, uncover the essential backstories behind the arguments, and realize where the real questions lie.

conversation is searched; This is an art for the curious. Those who approach it with an open and calm mind are less likely to expose their weak points to attack. This is what it means to become water, not a stone.

Here are some martial arts techniques to apply to conversation:

1. Rest without showing strength or weakness

Great competitors will not show their strength as it can also display a weakness. Revealing your strengths can expose your vulnerability. To be like water, relax.

I remember an example where I did exactly this. I was attending a play in New York City’s Times Square with my business partner at the time, his girlfriend and my wife. After the scintillating show, the audience thronged. I was about 10 feet away from my wife and business partner’s girlfriend when I saw a man studying them. It was as if he was looking at her purse. I could sense he was about to make a move, so I immediately closed the gap and stood between him and the women.

I looked into his eyes and smiled and extended my hand to shake, and I said, “Hey, how are you doing?” He extended his hand and shook my hand, and I just said, “There’s nothing here for you.” He shook my hand a little longer than I expected and then smiled and left.

It’s a perfect example of the power of a strategy like water. I was not threatening. I was not afraid. I could have looked at the matter differently and got belligerent and counter-accused, but that would have caused far more trouble than it was worth. I knew in that instance to be like water – calm, collected. I listened and saw more obstacles around me, eventually knowing that through the art of listening to myself and being silent, I could leave the situation completely and sane.

“In the struggle of stone and water, over time, water wins.” japanese proverb

2. Find Openings

In martial arts, finding that opening in your opponent is a patience that ultimately results.

Negotiation is a human process and is thus rich in human interaction, showing your human side, establishing that you care and demonstrating empathy, which makes you feel more comfortable with those around you. How can you do this? By listening and asking questions.

Imagine that you enter your conversation with questions. You come in like water. You are ready but don’t guess your result by demanding what you want. You ask good questions.

What are good questions? Those who, like water, find an opening.

Finding the opening can be the most challenging part of a conversation, and asking and listening provides the best openings. If you are specific about what you want in the beginning, you can leave something important on the table. If you ask for too much, the conversation can end quickly.

Openings require open-ended questions and a little bit of small talk. People are more receptive to open-ended questions. Asking open-ended questions creates an environment in which your counterparty thinks and believes that the views presented are his or her own.

When you open up by listening, you are letting the other party lead the conversation. But you should let them move in such a way that it doesn’t look like you are trying to corner them. This means asking open-ended questions, not closed-ended ones. Think closed-ended questions that can be answered with a yes or no, while open-ended questions welcome the narrative.

Find that opening in your opponent patiently. Consider borrowing from classic sales techniques and using questions to highlight shared interests. Respond to the opponent’s answers with follow-up questions to build trust.

I’ve used an opening: “So, why are we here?” I reduced stress to a simple “How can I help?”

Openings for talks should be simple, non-threatening, inviting and used to establish trust.

3. Wait for the Right Time

Don’t draw your sword into the conversation. Come empty handed Formless and formless, come like water. Get ready to ask stimulating questions that will give you information that you can use to your advantage. But first you should talk to them.

Focus on listening carefully so that you remember what you hear. Uncover all the necessary backstories to discover the other party’s true desires and dissatisfaction and what they want most. Then, and only then, connect your services, your products, and your vision with the needs and wants of the other person.

The openings are conceptual gaps where you can test, intervene and match their needs and wants with yours. You must be so well prepared and clear about your negotiating position that it will not be easy to present these as needs and opportunities. It would be natural. You may be leading, but the other side will assume that the leadership belongs to them. When you behave and act this way, the other party will feel that they are teaching you.

Be prepared to listen with complete openness until you have the opportunity to present your position. Above all, be patient and relaxed. Be like water.

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