I was asked for my thoughts on this article in which a Microsoft executive is described as using her hobby for her work in a fairly creative way to get the upper hand in negotiations. She told Murphy, "When I run with customers, the goal is to go just fast enough so they can’t talk much and I can dominate the conversation."

I wholeheartedly applaud being ‘fit for conflict’ in body, mind and spirit. I too am proud of my humble collection of running medals. However, I would caution against such tactics during serious negotiations for three key reasons.

The first takes me back to my role as a hostage and crisis negotiator, when after some of the most challenging, high risk, seemingly impossible situations, people would ask my colleagues and I, ‘how did you talk them out of that?’ And the answer is, we didn’t…….’we listened them out.’ 

I see it all the time in business and indeed life, where companies, people and nations adopt a position at odds with the other – hence the need for a conversation. Thereafter and somewhat sadly,  the process of ‘negotiation’ gets no more sophisticated than each remaining focused on talking about the merits of their position and failing to be curious enough about the story that lies beneath the other’s seemingly ‘unacceptable position.’

Great negotiators understand where the true power and magic lies. Frankly and simply, it is in ‘shutting up’ and listening!  For all the time you are talking, you are unwittingly revealing valuable intelligence (information for action), including your true interests, needs, values, motivation – a veritable gold mine for the able negotiator.

Secondly, even though I enjoy running, I was fascinated to read in Daniel Kahneman’s book ‘Thinking, Fast and Slow,’ about research that shows once we get beyond a strolling walking pace, our ability to truly think coherently is greatly diminished – running therefore not conducive to important negotiations.

Finally, whilst securing submission through exhaustion is a tactic characteristic of many competitive negotiation styles, it feels sub-optimal and not in the spirit of creating truly enduring, beneficial business relationships.

Top Tip – Talk less, Listen more.

Philip Williams is a former Director of Hostage Negotiation for the Met Police and one of our lead negotiation trainers. He brings his experience of negotiation in global crises to the world of business and works with leaders globally to help them advance their skills and capability.