Over my career, as lawyer, I found it both fun and accurate to use that quote and state that “I’m only responsible for what I say not what you understand”.
From my perspective, as business lawyer, nothing could have been more true than this statement. Then, time passing over my carrer I slowly found out that, as negotiator, what does matter is to make sure you not only properly listen your counterpart and not only make your statement accurate and prudent but you do take care of your partners and counterparts’ understanding.
Why this? Why did I change my views on such a statement? Because when you are negotiating your goal is to come to an agreement. You not only want to shake hands in the end, you want to make a deal that will be implemented.
If sometimes it is good to remain silent or to ignore some elephants under the carpet, while negotiating you have to be aware that good understanding is key, maybe not to shake hands but to make sure your deal will come into force when need be.
What if, after some times, your counterpart realize that he did not understand what was behind your statement? Worst, that you retained some material informations on purpose, protecting yourself behind lawyer’s oral techniques to protect yourself and your clients against further potential claims.
Negotiation is, from time to time, the best alternative to a dispute. When this is the case and more generally speaking, negotiating is about creating relationships and confidence because without them almost no ideals are possible.
If you don’t take care about your counterpart understanding you may experience unexpected and unwanted side effects of your deal.
Hence, even though you are a negotiating lawyer or you have a background or an education of lawyer, if you want to make deals that will survive the hands shake, don’t forget that you are responsible for what you say AND for what your counterparts understand.
Your negotiation partners