The art of the deal has gotten a bad name these days. Forget for a moment its political associations, there is a case to be made that we could use a little more deal-making and a lot less posturing or arguing.
Let’s start with the role communicators often play, that of negotiator. A reporter calls with a story we’d rather not tell. All too often those calls get ignored or the reporter gets stonewalled. Why? Because the art of taking something unwanted and turning it into something better has fallen out of favor or has simply been forgotten. Anyone who has done this job for a while knows that at least 50% of the time, the reporter is looking for a story and if you give her something else, something better for you and interesting to her, you can all win. What does it take? Some negotiation skill and the courage to try.
Likewise, what about all those times you see someone negotiate — or not — a raise or promotion. They go in and ask for what they want, a method which, on its surface, seems right. But what they’re missing is that these things are most easily accomplished when the person you’re asking feels like they are rewarded, too. This can be in the form of gratitude, loyalty, renewed energy for the job, willingness to move locations or take on something thankless. A unilateral ask — one without any elements of negotiation — just isn’t as good as one in which some respectful deal making is present.
Within your organization, there is no shortage of opportunity for the right deal to be struck. You can be the person who stands their ground and behaves as if their idea is the best, their area of responsibility is the most important or their budgetary needs are the most acute. That might work, but what might work even better is the idea of finding alliances comprised of people with similar needs or interests, sharing resources with those who have overlapping responsibilities or finding ways to piggyback on each other’s efforts in order to accomplish something bigger.
Sadly, there are few societal role models to remind us that making a deal is something we should aspire to. The disincentives for our politicians, pundits, and opinion makers are too high for them to advocate for, let alone attempt to make, a deal. The zero-sum nature of our world, whether it’s the way we talk to each other on social media, consume news or even where we choose to live, tells us that staking ground and not budging is the right course. As two people with vastly different personal backgrounds but similar professional experiences, we are here to say that nothing can trump the art of the deal.
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This article was written by Amy von Walter and Matt Furman.
Matt Furman, chief communications officer for Best Buy, is a New Yorker by birth who used to happily fly over Minnesota on his way to both coasts, but now calls it home. Both are members of the USC Annenberg Center for PR Board of Advisors.