“Nurturing” means to feed emotionally, to provide moral training, to foster the mind with good, understanding, appreciative thoughts. We usually associate nurturing with a parent or a mentor. But the concept and practice is an essential element for negotiators as well.
Nurturing isn’t an option. It’s a rule that’s part of the Camp System, and should be part of your negotiating system as well. In a negotiation, your ability to nurture will be the key to bringing the negotiation back to the table after a breakdown. By skillfully nurturing your respected opponent—putting them at ease—you assure them that you are listening and value what they have to say.
The Body Language Of Nurturing
Nurturing has its own body language—a lower voice, a slower voice, and backing up instead of leaning forward. When you’re seated, refrain from any sudden forward movement, or smacking the table with your hands. Lean back. Relax your neck, face, and hands. No one is going to deal effectively with you if you’re towering over them. The truly comfortable negotiator takes it easy. When in doubt, slow your cadence of speech and lower your tone of voice. Laughter is also a way to nurture everyone in the room—including ourselves.
The way you phrase question and statements can be either nurturing or almost the opposite. “Hey, how’s it going?” This is nurturing. “That’s a good question.” This is also nurturing.
Even more important than what you say for nurturing purposes, though, is how you say it. For example, consider this question: “Is this what you really want?” It can come across as bullying or compassionate, depending on your tone, volume, and emphasis. If you say, quietly, “Is this what you really want?” it would most likely be perceived as an empathetic inquiry. Delivery is everything.
Another important part of nurturing language is the apology. We must apologize for anything negative we may have done or said. Apologies bring the emotional pendulum back to the middle, where calm decisions can be made, and vision built for the other side.
The Psychology Of Nurturing
Nurturing must not be confused with being easy and soft. Nor does it signal arbitrary compromise. It does not mean “saving your opponent” from a tough decision. Nurturing is simply a smart psychological move that allows just a little stress to be released at the right moment.
When the going gets tough in a negotiation, your biggest challenge will be your ability to nurture your adversary in spite of everything else going on. It’s not easy. Nurturing requires a delicate touch. It may be just the one right word, or facial expression, or gesture. How well you nurture will require great practice and insight into yourself and others.
You won’t hear a lot of negotiating experts talking about nurturing. It’s just not considered “hotshot” material. However, when done right and used in the right moments, nurturing is a powerful tool in a negotiator’s arsenal.