The fine art of managing internal conflict

Most of our time at work is spent negotiating.

Negotiating for better pay.

Negotiating for a promotion.

Negotiating for having your say/point of view.

With negotiation taking so much of space in our professional life, how would you rate yourself in this skill?

Are you adept? What are the barriers that stall your negotiation? What leads to its failure?

Who or what is the biggest obstacle?

In a round of quick answers I am sure there would be ‘manager’, ‘culture’, ‘fear’, ‘team members’, ‘friends’, etc…

But if you were to reflect deeply on what would be the biggest obstacle, your answer might just change.

The biggest obstacle

Harvard Negotiation Project cofounder William Ury says, self-negotiation, or bargaining with yourself, is one of the biggest obstacles in a negotiation.

I remember once not sharing my perspective with my team. We were discussing a new media strategy and I felt keeping quiet was better because I was not confident whether my ideas would be accepted. By doing so, I felt my confidence slipping further. In the whole process, I had become my own obstacle. My own thinking acted as a deterrent to my own professional growth.

Needless to say, self-awareness is a very powerful tool that can aid you in negotiating better. It helps one in not giving into emotions generated at the heat of the moment. Being self-aware can help you see the big picture and detach yourself from the situation.

Tip: learn to be aware of your emotions and manage them well.

Question the ‘why’

As adults we tend to ask less questions. Our curiosity is replaced by our so-called knowledge that we think we have on a particular subject. Asking the ‘why’ can open new doors when negotiating. If you are negotiating with your customer or stakeholder, keep asking ‘why’ till you come to the real reason behind the reason. This will require you to be tactical and ensure you do not make the stakeholder defensive.

Tip: Back your arguments with data and rationale, this strengthens your ability to convince the other party.

Reframe the situation

Our mind by default races to see the negatives first. This is akin to failing at imagining a better outcome. It is as though our mind has frozen and we are not able to shift that visual out of our head.

Reframing the situation by thinking of possibilities helps to move the needle away from failure towards options and better solutions.

Tip: When stuck, try looking at things from a different perspective.

Align people on your side

If you notice, it is always internal conflicts and internal negotiations that are tougher. People start taking sides. Groupism becomes evident. Isolation is then not far. Make sure that you have people aligned to the point that you wish to put across.

Tip: Identify and understand your allies and find out what they really care about


Negotiation is more about listening. If you can pay attention to the different point of view or the question asked, you will find new perspectives. Listening also involves asking the right questions across the table. It shows you are interested and care about the discussion and its outcome. You are shifting the spotlight from yourself to the other party. Listen to their worries and their concerns.

Tip: Ask open ended empathetic questions

Talk it over

We all have at some time or the other dug our heels. Not budged from our stance. Not given in come what may. Think for a moment – what if all parties move out of the meeting room to a dinner or lunch and then talk things over?

Tip: Play the host. Invite people to converse in a different environment

Negotiation is really all about two key steps –

Step one – listening to yourself and understanding what you want.

Step two – listening to others and understanding what they want.

The views and opinions published here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher.

Sarita Bahl
Sarita Bahl is an alumnus of Tata Institute of Social Sciences and the Swedish Institute of Management Program. An experienced and versatile leader, she comes with nearly four decades of professional experience. She has over the years successfully overseen the communications and public affairs function and led the corporate social responsibility strategy for Bayer South Asia, Pfizer, and Monsanto, among others. Sarita has held multiple roles across diverse industries, the public sector, trade associations, MNCs, and the not-for-profit sector. Her areas of interest include advocacy, stakeholder engagement, sustainability, and communications.

As an Associate Certified Coach (ACC) from the International Coaching Federation (ICF) and Senior Practitioner (Mentoring) from the European Council of Mentoring and Coaching (EMCC), Sarita specializes in career transition, inner engineering and life issues. Sarita enjoys writing and is passionate about animals, books, and movies.

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