Negotiation expert: Lessons from my horse | Margaret Neale | TEDxStanford

Negotiation expert: Lessons from my horse | Margaret Neale | TEDxStanford

Translator: David Hsu
Reviewer: Riaki Poništ I teach negotiation. I do research in negotiation. I write books in negotiation. And I work with students and executives to help them get more of what they want
from their negotiations. And one of the biggest challenges
that we face in negotiations is that we view negotiations as a battle. And that battle is characterized by “I’m going to try to get stuff from you
that you don’t want to give me; and I’m going to try to keep you
from getting my stuff.” And if we view negotiations as a battle, we already have a problem. I’m going to suggest
that what’s more important is that we look at negotiations as an opportunity
for collaborative problem-solving, looking for a solution
that makes me better off, better off than my alternatives,
better off than my status quo. But because there is no command
and control in negotiation, I cannot force you to say “Yes.” All I can do is present proposals where you believe
it is in your interest to say “Yes.” And so, once I take
that perspective on negotiation which highlights the importance
of the other as well as me, so many more things
open up to negotiation: whether it’s a new job – I’m trying to negotiate the terms
of my employment contract – whether I’m trying to do
an acquisition for my company; whether I’m in a meeting; whether I’m deciding with my spouse who’s going to take the dog out
on a cold and rainy night; or whether I’m thinking
about what the rules are that my offspring will have to follow
and I will have to agree to when they use my car. And this is very good advice, but I am here today with a confession that I don’t always follow
my very good advice. And I want to introduce you
to my longtime negotiating counterpart. This is Sal. Sal is a 15-year-old quarter horse. She is a mare. And Sal came to me
as a gift from my husband. My husband was the prior owner of Sal,
and he discovered, very quickly, that Sal was more horse
than he could handle. So, as a solution to his problem,
he thought he would just give her to me. And he did that because he thought –
and he told this to me – “You two are so alike.” (Laughter) And to demonstrate that,
we have a picture. So this is Sal and me,
but early on in our relationship. And we are about to attempt
a relatively complex maneuver called the flying lead change. Look at my jaw: it’s tight,
my lips: pressed. My eyes, if you can see them
through the sunglasses, there’s a laser-like focus
on where I need to be with my horse, and my reins have a death grip. But this is a move that requires
both of us, both Sal and me. And if you look at Sal, you see
she has a similar look on her face. Her jaw is tight. Look at her ears. Clearly, I have a goal in mind
but so does she, and it might not be the same thing. (Laughter) But my vision was good:
what I wanted us to be was good. Let me show you what I had in my head
about how we might look. (Music) This is Buck Brannamon
and his horse Rebel. Look at these. Look at how they move together. The smoothness with which they move
across the pasture. It’s stunning – the fluidity, the dance. It’s as if this man’s brain
is attached directly to this horse’s feet. This is what I wanted. That was a good goal. So, I decided, “Yes.” And I started working hard
on getting Sal to look like Rebel. And the harder and harder I pushed her, the more she got resistant,
the more she got tight, the more she got anxious,
the more we didn’t go forward. And it came to a head
about three years ago. Two of my friends
and I were in the pasture. And they took off to go do
something with their horses, but I decided that Sal and I should stay and work on a particular dance step
that we were trying to achieve. And when they left, she got anxious,
which is not surprising, because horses are prey animals,
their herds are their source of support. And when she was left alone,
she was feeling very scared. And I made, of course,
my first mistake in all of this. I focused on winning,
on getting her to do what I wanted rather than problem solving. And so if she saw
herself alone – no support – she certainly didn’t see
me as her support. What she saw was the thing
that could protect her, her herd, was leaving, and now she was alone. She was isolated, and she was at risk. And so as we continued,
I tried to keep her with me, but she wanted to go with them. And what happened was because she couldn’t go forward, the only thing she could do is go up. And she reared. And I struggled mightily
to get all four feet back on the ground, and I did for a moment,
but soon after that, she reared again, and then a third time, and at that point,
scared for my life, I bailed on Sal. I abandoned her. Now, at this point,
I had created a power struggle. And, at that moment, we were both
in a struggle for our survival. Right now, you are probably thinking,
“You know, you are such a drama queen.” (Laughter) “What’s a little rear?” I mean, after all, if you are my age,
you remember Roy Rogers and Trigger. Right? And Trigger would rear. I remember my younger self
seeing that, thinking, “I want a horse like that.
I want that power, that beauty.” Or if you are much younger than me and maybe one of the few people who saw
that latest movie “The Lone Ranger,” you might have seen Silver rearing,
and again, power and beauty. But these are Hollywood horses,
and those are tricks. What rearing is like in the real world? It is not beautiful. It is scary. It is dangerous. When a horse rears,
they can fall over backwards. And when they fall over backwards,
the rider is crushed or killed. And when they fall over backwards, they hit their head on the way down. And they are dead. So, while rearing has this Hollywood view, in the real world, it is so dangerous. And while I know my goal,
my vision was good and important, what I had forgotten
was to be flexible in how I got there. And my vision was good. This is a beautiful picture. Sal and I could be …
we could be wonderful together. But while I was hoping for this, this is more like Sal thought. What Sal saw was:
we were at a complete impasse. This wasn’t a win-win.
This wasn’t even a win-lose. For us, we were at lose-lose. And maybe I was at the time
where I had to, like my husband, Al, say, “This horse was too much for me.” And maybe give her to a rider
who could do more with her, who could help her out. But I cared about this horse,
and I cared about us, and I cared about our relationship. So I had to change. After all, I’m the one with the big brain;
I’m the one with the opposable thumbs. And I have all these tools. I’m the one who needed to change. So I talked to my teachers. And I went back and they said to me, “You have forgotten
the most important lesson: that this relationship between
you and Sal is a partnership. It’s not a dictatorship. So, you need to go back because Sal doesn’t have the language
of words to make offers and counteroffers. She can’t say ‘No’ to you.” But what Sal was doing
with every fiber of her being was using her language
of touch and feel to say, “No.” This wasn’t working.
This wasn’t a partnership. And she was afraid. She was not being stubborn
when she reared; she was fearing for her life. And so we did go back. And I could tell you
I had to start all over again because I had to be the leader
where she found comfort and support. Because if I were fearful,
she could feel that fear through the layers of leather
of a western saddle. And if I, the rider,
the person in charge, was afraid, what hope did she as a prey animal have? I had to remember a lesson that I learned
when I – for being an academic, is that you can’t just bull
your way through things. You have to learn how to problem-solve. But, for some reason,
I hadn’t brought that lesson to Sal. And so I had to go back. I had to become that calm, confident
leader that allowed Sal to make mistakes and to learn from those mistakes. Because horses have
really two motivations: they do what they think
they are supposed to do, or they do what they need
to do to survive. And I had to move us
out of a survival mode because nobody can learn then, and move us into a learning mode. Now, it’s been almost three years
to the day that that happened. And Sal and I are very different. We did go back, and we moved forward
with such speed this time that I’d never have predicted back then
that we would ever make it to here. Now, are we perfect? No. Sal and I have good days,
and we have bad days. And I make mistakes all the time. But the difference
is that now Sal sees me as a source of support
and comfort for her. She sees me as someone
who will where good things happen, and I can keep the bad things away. And to demonstrate, let me show you a picture of Sal and me that was taken by Al last March. This was like last month. Now I want you to notice a couple
of things about this picture. Notice that there is nothing
on Sal’s face; there is no rope, no reins, no bridle. Sal is behaving exactly
as she chooses to behave. And notice that she is choosing. Her horse buddies are behind her
in the background. She is choosing to walk away
from them and with me. And look at her. She is soft; she is willing; she is calm. And look at me. I’m really different too. I am soft, and I am calm,
and I am confident. So, perhaps, as you think
about your next big negotiation, you might be tempted to see
if you can borrow Sal for a little tune-up in how to negotiate. But what might be more,
safer for all of us is that if you just remember
the lessons of Sal and me. Focus on solving the problem,
not on winning the battle, because if you find yourself in a battle,
in a power struggle in a negotiation, you have already lost. And the key to being able to solve
problems in a negotiation is to understand your counterpart,
to know what motivates them, what will influence them to move
down that path of agreement with you, of their own volition. Remember there is no command
and control in negotiation; I can’t force you to say “Yes.” And remember that that works
for your counterparts, whether they are human or horse. And goals are important; you absolutely need to know
what a good deal is for you. But you also need to have flexibility
in how to achieve that goal. And for me, this is the lesson
that I must learn and relearn because too often, I choose a path
to my goal because I have chosen it, not because it is the right one. And in closing, I want to acknowledge
the considerable debt I owe for becoming a better negotiator
and a better human to my partner Sal. Thank you. (Applause)

24 thoughts on “Negotiation expert: Lessons from my horse | Margaret Neale | TEDxStanford

  1. It's really great seeing the passion and all, I also have a horse and I speak the same way about mine too, but seriously the talk is about negotiation, and while the analogy with Sal the horse is sort of a valid one, it is also kind of a little far fetched and certainly does not justify spending literally half the time talking about her.

  2. I personally loved this. (Dressage under a western saddle made me smile.)
    I went through much the same journey with my hot-blooded, scared-of-his-own-shadow Arabian gelding. I learned how to project calmness, and to relax my body despite my own fears, as my horse tensed, spooked, and leapt under me. So he would understand that I was not afraid, so he didn't need to be. I learned that ASKING him for what I wanted, in a way that didn't threaten him, got me rewards. Forcing him into fight or flight mode caused us both to lose. I ended up with an amazing, responsive, trusting partner of 24 years. I have carried those lessons from training my horse into all other areas of my life. I totally get this video. Thank you. <3

  3. This is great lesson, not only about negotiations. I saw love, humble and respect increasing since she decided do not give her up. Lovely.

  4. I enjoyed this talk but for me it was more about building trust. Great value for me if I look at it that way.

    I have a hostile boss. I'm looking to improve my people skills while also wondering if I'm better off elsewhere.

  5. Short notes:

    but the difference is that Sal(horse name) now sees me as a source of support and comfort for her. She sees me as someone who will make things happen and keep the bad things away.

    focus on solving the problem not winning the battle

    the minute you find yourself in a power struggle or a battle in a negotiation you have already lost
    We need to have a clear goal but also need to focus on how to get there.

  6. This lady is irritating me with her attempt at dramatizing something average. With her big loud mouth blah, blah, blah. Lady, you are the one with the big mouth not the big brain.

  7. Well well well…what a brilliant analogy Margaret. Thank you for your humility and compassion and as I look at other 'horse talks' in preparation for my own Tedx Folkestone talk in June, I think that you and I are cut from the same cloth:-)

  8. I think this video could have be made in 1min.
    Since there’s one idea, and I think the example using a weaker specie is not so well…

  9. As a rider who is not a youngster anymore, I no longer have the ability to force a solution on my horse. As a friend told me after I was thrown, "you don't bounce as well as you used to." So horse training for older, more savvy riders is a negotiation founded on building trust and relationship. An added benefit of a trusting relationship is that it supports finding good solutions when new issues arise — like a bear crossing the trail in front of you.

  10. Reason am skeptical about female speakers they are not logical and definitive. Am a how to person. Feel like I just wasted 15 minutes on what should have been 1minute

  11. Sounds like myself and my Ex-husband,of course the battle was lost cause it wasn't supposed to be a battle in the first place but with a Narcissist that is a different case.

  12. Thank you, Ma'am! I affirm negotiation requires flexibility; partnership not confrontation; solve problem, not fight.

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