27. The Art—and Importance—of Telling Stories When You Negotiate

Our friend and colleague Josh Weiss is our guest in this episode. He’s the author of Real World Negotiation: Successful Strategy from Business, Government, and Daily Life.

As you’ll hear, Josh’s book draws important general lessons from seemingly very different kinds of cases (most of them far from our own experience). But Josh knows that real stories often offer more useful and powerful lessons than does abstract theory, no matter how elegantly crafted. Real world examples are far more engaging, credible, and memorable.

And as fate would have it, early in our conversation Josh proved that point when he told us a story that appears in his book. It’s about an emotionally disturbed man, carrying a rope, who climbed high in a tree. He was threatening to hang himself. A patient policeman talked him down by helping the man save face.

“Interesting,” you might say, “but what does that have to do with the kind of negotiation that I do?”

“Plenty,” would be Josh’s answer. In his artful telling, the story is about many things: staying centered in a stressful situation, listening deeply, and at the heart of it, building rapport—all of which are essential qualities in many negotiations.

And here’s what’s great! As Josh relates how the policeman talked the man down, note how the two of us (Kim and Mike) got drawn in the tale and shared our own impressions of what it meant.

It was a wheel within a wheel. His story prompted us in real time to think anew about story telling in negotiation. As you listen, be mindful of how it sparks your own thinking about moving conversations forward.