It’s an almost universal truth that mixing friendship (or family) with business is a recipe for disaster. In personal relationships the way you interact may be quite different from the boundaries needed in a professional setting.
When you find yourself negotiating with someone you also have a personal connection with, how can you above the best possible reaults for both you business and your friendship?
1) Don’t be a robot
Having a very distinct personality in your friendship, and a separate one in your professional life can make it easier to avoid conflict between the two, but how you shift between them will be important. Don’t leave your counterpart/friend scratching their head trying to figure out what happened to the person the knew and why you’ve been replaced with a cold corporate robot if you usually have a very warm approach.
Hint: using a warmer, more personal approach in starting your discussions can be a good way to get off on the right foot. Chances are, both you and your counterpart will be a bit nervous – and this can help ease you both into the discussions.
2) Respect boundaries
If you’re friends with someone outside the work setting you’ll likely know a thing or two about their personal life. This information may even be useful in making gains during the negotiations. But this doesn’t mean you should use it. Manipulating someone on a personal level to achieve a better result for you deal is just bad business, and bad manners.
Hint: Pay close attention to body language during negotiation discussions, especially when there are other parties in the room. You may inadvertently start a a conversation that your counterpart is uncomfortable with – look out for them closing off by crossing their arms or perhaps even trying to distance themselves by moving back from the table slightly.
3) Call in the cavalry
If your negotiation isn’t going particularly well, or there’s a sticky situation or topic to be dealt with, some classic deflection can be the perfect thing to save both the deal and the friendship. Bring in a colleague to tackle a tough conversation, or look to involve a third party expert opinion to diffuse any tension.
Hint: There’s no need to be ‘sneaky’ about this deflection. You may want to address any areas of potential conflict with your counterpart ahead of time and mutually agree to let other team members handle those portions. After all, honesty and transparency are key to maintaining both your personal and professional relationships.
Have you ever found yourself at the negotiating table with a friend? How did you handle it? Did both the deal and the friendship benefit?