Stephen Bourne’s passion is communication. His role at the Centre of Excellence for Tendering and Negotiation at Janssen Pharmaceuticals includes teaching and consulting on the practices developed from the Programme on Negotiation (PON) from Harvard Law School. When he did the Hoffman Process in 2006, closely followed by his wife Gill Manning, it added an extra dimension to his work, which is key to contentment and success both at work and at home.

stephenbourne-winner1‘Negotiations aren’t reserved for business. They happen every day with everyone around us. We negotiate our way through life from the nursery to the grave. Communicating effectively is a combination of:

  • how you listen
  • what you say
  • how you say it
  • the energy and emotion behind what you’re saying

The basics of the Harvard Law School Programme on Negotiation are to focus on the interests of one another, not each other’s positions; then you create options, rather than trade concessions. By the end of the negotiation, not only should both parties feel the agreement is fair and meets their requirements, the relationship is better too. This teaching and practice can enable people to make great strides in both their business and home interactions; until, that is, their emotional child gets in the way. Take my story with Mary:

A Cautionary Tale: The Million Dollar Meeting

I was sitting in a meeting, the outcome of which could be worth over £1m a year to my company. My colleague and I were in a meeting with a client, let’s call her Mary. Every time I spoke to highlight an option, Mary seemed either to ignore what I’d said or dismiss it, whereas when my colleague spoke Mary seemed to welcome her comments. After about the third time I felt I’d been ignored and snubbed, I felt I just wanted to get Mary back. So I sat there waiting for the opportunity to use some cleverly worded put down. I’d show her, I thought. At that moment I thought “blow the business, I just want to get even” and then my thought process stopped. Some other voice said “Whoa! wait a minute, you teach negotiation, you’re supposed to be good at this stuff. What are you doing here” This happened about 6 months before I went to Hoffman. I’m pretty sure anyone reading this who has done Hoffman, may have thought a couple of sentences ago “so Stephen, was it Mum or Dad that ignored you as a child?”. Both.

What a difference a week makes. Since doing the Hoffman Process my success in negotiating with my children, my mum, my wife and the Marys of this world has been a joy. I’m fortunate to have found both the Process and to have had years of practice in using well-developed negotiation techniques. For me it’s summarised as:

Emotional Balance + Effective Communication = Effective Negotiation through life.

Without self-love there can be no genuine emotional balance; we don’t exude the kind of confidence which draws others to us. Without effective communication skills we may not listen and understand others correctly and we may not express ourselves clearly. Only if we have these two together can we hope to maximise opportunities and minimise conflict.

Whether you’ve done the Process or not, I’d recommend five simple ways to improve your success in negotiating your way through life. This is not my thinking, the ideas come from the Harvard PON too, specifically from Fisher and Shapiro’s work Building Agreement: Using Emotions as You Negotiate. There are five core emotional concerns in their book. For now let me offer just two top tips derived from it:

Two Top Tips

bearsinwoodscommunication220-winner2Connect: allow others to feel connected to you by listening to them. Let them know that you’ve listened. Don’t spend time preparing what you are going to say next and, at all costs, try not to say “yes, but” because we all know this means you stopped listening a while ago and were getting ready to rebut. As a first step try using “Yes, and….”.

Appreciation: find merit, no matter how hard it may seem, in someone else’s opinion. I don’t mean agree with them, just find something you like about what they’re saying. So now you’re not only moving to “yes and”, you’re moving to “ yes, and what I like about what you just said is…”. This has to be genuine – if it isn’t, people spot it and they’ll know you’re being disingenuous.

Can this really work? Well let’s take an example. Imagine Dave, an opinionated and abrasive manager, sitting with Alice, his Hoffman Grad colleague. The conversation could go like this:

Dave: “well I think you’ve made a mistake here”.

Dave has made a statement, Alice might first get further clarification.

Alice: “what makes you say that Dave?”.

Dave: “Well you’ve just introduced a new policy on XX and you didn’t even bother to consult the senior managers in my area”

Alice might say:

A. Yes, but I’ve been really busy and I can’t consult on every little policy change or I’d never get anything done.

OR B. Yes, and what I like about what you’re saying is that you really value consultation and inclusiveness. On this occasion there was real pressure to get something done quickly. One way in which we might improve things is for you to give me some thoughts on future consultation etc.

It’s pretty clear that the first response is more likely to lead to conflict whilst the second, done genuinely, is more likely to be productive and result in joint problem solving. The challenge is not to react emotionally to a direct criticism “I think you’ve made a mistake here” and then to have the skills to handle the communication.

War to Peace

In my role I meet dozens of highly skilled communicators. Their challenge is to avoid an emotional response where their highly developed communication skills seem to desert them! Hoffman certainly helped me with that. I found a new level of self-awareness, self-love and inner peace. However, when you mention the word “emotion” in a business context many senior managers come over all queasy! For those who don’t feel ready for a 7 day intensive I felt sure there had to be something we can do to help them at least a step towards greater emotional balance.

chloe-winner3I knew it wouldn’t be easy to discover a methodology acceptable to our executives, so I made it my mission to find something that could be combined with the skills and tips of negotiation but was also safe enough for colleagues to do in front of one another. What I found was War to Peace a programme that offers a journey of self-discovery where you can learn to become more effective with the people you find most challenging in business or at home, run (not by chance) by another Hoffman Graduate, Chloe O’Sullivan. Having experienced conflict in her personal and professional life Chloe wanted to find a powerful, effective way to resolve it.

The result of all this is a programme which uses the most effective negotiation methodologies in the world to develop individuals who are more likely to demonstrate emotional balance themselves. They can then invite others into a world of value creation, problem-solving and better relationships. It’s a happier and more fulfilling place to be.

Find out more about War to Peace at

Edited by Nikki Wyatt

Note: Any views expressed in this article are those of Stephen Bourne and do not necessarily express those of Janssen..