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The Most Simple Negotiation Strategy
Episode 10911th October 2022 • Special Education Advocacy with Ashley Barlow • Ashley Barlow
00:00:00 00:23:32

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It seems so simple. Too simple. Unbelievably simple. Like do negotiation experts actually teach this? Do law schools professors actually harp on this? Is it seriously the bane of the mediator’s existence? Friends, in today’s episode I give you THE most simple negotiation strategy. It’s one that you think you know. But wait. You might need to know more about… wait for it… what you want. Yep, in today’s podcast, we’re talking about what you want! Isn’t that what EVERYbody wants to discuss in a negotiation? Hop over and give a listen. I bet it helps you at your next IEP meeting!


Welcome back to Special Education Advocacy with Ashley Barlow. I'm Ashley Barlow and I'm so happy you're here, friends. Today we are going to talk about one negotiation strategy that seems so simple. It seems so easy, it seems so obvious, but it is seriously something that people struggle. A lot enough that I think it's worth telling you.

And I encourage you, if you listen to the first five minutes of this podcast and you say, Yay. Yeah, totally. I've got that. I'll give you, I'll foreshadow a little bit. I know what I want. Because that's the advocacy strategy. Know what you want. If you say right now, Yeah, I know what I want. I always know what I want.

I encourage you to listen to the end because even I who have been trained as a negotiator and a mediator who negotiate for a living, even I. Sometimes don't know that I don't know what I want. And so I really hope that you will continue listening until the end today. So I am speaking directly out of the notes from our negotiation workshop.

The negotiation workshop is only available to advocates in the ABC community. It is only available to people that have taken the ABC course, and it's an add-on. It is something that you can add onto the ABC course. Of course, the ABC course. Is my course that is available to, help you to develop your skills as a special education advocate.

The lab is geared more towards parents and the ABC course is geared more towards advocates. And I have to say, I've said it before on the podcast and I have said it on other people's podcasts and I will continue to say it. I think the negotiation workshop is the thing that I'm most proud of because in my special education, Law practice.

The thing that I am best on, kind of my special stamp is negotiation. I don't take cases to do process very often and I get stuff done for my clients. And the way I do that is through these negotiation skills. And so, I think maybe that's why I'm most proud of this negotiation workshop. So today I am going to cover one little tiny thing that is in this bigger bundle of the negotiation workshop.

So I think it's kind of important to start with the difference between negotiation and advocacy, right? Because if you have a parent, if you have a child with a disability or a loved one, if you care, give for somebody with a disability. If you are a teacher or related service professional, you are an advocate, right?

You are, trying to convince somebody that you are right to see the other side. And in this case, oftentimes for somebody else, you're just trying to like spread awareness or appreciation. . But when you negotiate, we're trying to get that team that i e p team or another person or whatever, to come to a consensus to everybody agree.

So when we advocate, we can just say, you know, this is the way that this person's feeling or experiencing or what's going on. We can spread awareness, but when we negotiate, we are trying to get people to agree. And that's kind of the heart of. I e p negotiation of special education because we are on this team, and the team has to come to a consensus.

The team has to agree, you have to have a meeting of the minds. So advocacy doesn't have to involve any movement. You don't have to, you know, convince somebody that you are in fact, right. You don't have to, you know, actually spread any awareness. You can just. And people can listen and they don't have to form an opinion and you don't have to come together.

But negotiation through its very definition, has a goal of reaching an agreement. So the goal is the agreement, the goal. Itself of an agreement involves some give and take. And so negotiation has that give and take. And I think it's the give and take that I am uniquely good at. And I think that is probably tip number one is.

Expect a give and take. If two people are going to reach an agreement, there's gonna be some give and take. If an IEP team, which probably at least has five people on it, is going to reach an agreement, there's going to be a lot of give and take, and that is okay. We don't have to just cram our thoughts down their throats.

So now we come to this particular advocacy tip that happens. A lot. A lot, a lot, A lot. It seems so basic. Know what you want. Okay, so you're like, Of course I know what I want. I want more inclusion. Define that. What does more inclusion want? Make yourself a list. What does more inclusion look like? What's inclusion mean?

To you. I'm recording this in my home office today, and you will see behind me a Jillian Books. Now what actually that, Bookshelf in particular is full of tens of books that helped me define inclusion to me, and I do promise I'm gonna get you a book list. I know, I think we're gonna start with behavior.

We might actually start with negotiation and I promise I will get you an inclusive practices, checklist as well. I am actually reading a bunch of books on inclusion right now for my other job over at ndsc. So, we're getting there. I promise. I promise. I've just been busy with this transition in my life.

So if you want more inclusion, . What the heck does that mean? What specifically do you want? We can advocate for inclusion all the time. We can talk the talk of Paula Cle and other inclusion experts, but can we negotiate? In order to negotiate, we have to know specifically what we want, right? Maybe we want, or in Gillingham instruction for our child that is dyslexic.

I feel like I use that example all the time. I'm gonna come up with other examples for future podcasts. Well, what do we like about og? Why is OG right for our child? What specifically could we do in order to make, OG implemented with fidelity? . What do we mean when we say we want a research based or an evidence based reading protocol or reading program for our child?

What does that mean? Define that. Know what you want. We don't just spit words out. We have to know what we want and we have to know the layers of what we want because when we negotiate and we've got that give and take. We have to know what layers are okay to peel off and what layers are absolutely necessary for our position for what we want.

And remember, we're, we're looking at interest based negotiation. So, and if you don't know about that, I do have a podcast on interest based negotiation. . So maybe you make a list of, Once I go into IEP meetings all the time and prior to I meet with my clients and I say, Okay, what do we. Right. Like what are our big things?

And prior to that, I've gone through the IEP with the clients and I've gone through, the evaluations with the clients and you know, we've kind of, I've made a list of once. And so I say to the client, What do we want? I'll never forget one time I had a client who, couldn't attend a meeting for whatever reason.

And so I went on the client's behalf and it was a pretty simple meeting. And I think we had a list of like eight once, and I came out and I got seven yeses and one. But in six weeks because of these circumstances and the client was irate, How did we not get all eight? And I'm like, Oh my gosh, we got seven out of eight and we got eight out of eight with a delay.

So when you go in with a list, you can really kind of quantify how things happened and you can quantify how happy you can be. Like literally, I could say we got seven eights and I'm not good at percentages. I wish I knew how. What percentage that was? Is that, Well, that would be, yeah, see three and a half out of four.

I don't know, but better than 75% I guess. So. Not bad. You know, we got a, I got a solid C. Not bad. Maybe I should asked for more once and then I would've had a better percentage when I missed one. So knowing what you want, maybe it's helpful to make a list. If you make a list, you know, I always say go into a negotiation with an outline.

And the reason why is because we get so passionate, we get so tangential, we go off on so many different tangents and so many different stories and anecdotes about our kids. And like sometimes we get really philosophical and we start to talk about, you know, Way Meyer book that we read on self-determination and how self-determination is the way of the world and that's the way we're gonna parent when our kids are grown and blah.

And we forget to come back and say, So I wanna make sure that they know how to express their wants in need. . We never come back to that. And so if we outline it, we make a list of what we want, we should be more equipped to come back and talk about what we what, which is this advocacy tip. Don't forget, know what you want, prioritize what you want.

This is what I have to have, and these are the things that would just be gravy. So we want to be able to prioritize from that. It's also quite helpful to talk them through with somebody that knows. If you're an advocate, of course, talk to your client. If you have an advocate, of course, talk to your attorney or advocate.

If you don't have either of those things, talk to your partner, talk to a friend, talk to, is somebody in your disability organization really kind of like tease out what's inclusion mean to me, or what does Orton Gillingham mean to me? That's a pretty easy definition, but you know, let me tell. , it is interpreted very differently by very many people.

Role play, tease it out. Whatever feels right to you. I hate to role play, but whatever feels right to you. Prepare for the discussion so that you know exactly what. You want. Now, this is kind of what I have to say about it, is a range of once or a range of outcomes is okay. In fact, I oftentimes encourage my client and if I'm negotiating for my own family, I always come up with a list of the worst alternatives in the best alternatives.

So I think this comes from that book getting to Yes, which is written by Fisher Yuri, u r y and one other. , it's an oie, but a goody negotiation book. He talks about a wat and a button. Or they talk about it. So a WAA is a worst alternative to a negotiated agreement, and a bota is your best alternative to a negotiated agreement.

And if you have in mind your WAA and your bota for each of your Once I would, or in Gillingham. Well, the worst alternative is that we, don't get anything and that's not acceptable. Right. And my best alternative is that I get, 30 minutes of instruction that has these particular points, these particular focuses, every single day in the morning, right when the ADHD medicine is kicking in with all of these things, right?

Like you list out exactly what you're looking for, that's your best alternative. Well, listen, there's a lot of gray between nothing and 30 minutes daily at this particular time of day with this particular goal, with these particular skills that we're working on with this sensory mat and all of those other things, right?

So if you know what you want, then you can see the gray between the worst alternative and the best alternative. And so I oftentimes say there's, there's this kind of gray area that is, yes, a bowl that is tolerable. You know, like I could get rid of this, but I can't get rid of that. Like my Orton Gillham has to have spelling instruction, but it doesn't have to have, I don't know, like, , believe me, I know that OG does not involve this, but like those color overlay, things because it's not good practice.

I'm not willing to give up very much, truth be told. But you know, I mean maybe the school is really set on something very, very specific. And you're like, I don't care about that, that that can go, but I would like to focus on this. So we're reprioritizing. And if you hit that list of what is the pie in the sky, dream, your buta best alternative to a negotiated agreement and your worst alternative, which is an absolute no, you're gonna see that there's lots of gray area between those two.

That would be yes, a bull. And so one way to ask yourself that is, what does a wind look like? How would I know that I won? And maybe it's on all of my issues. Maybe it is that seven outta eight or five out of eight or four out of eight. When I enter negotiations and I'm asking for money, a win always looks like them going back to somebody and asking for more money.

So like, Oh, I don't know, I'd have to call my adjuster. I'm like, Great. Cause I got to the top of your Yes. And if you have to call the adjuster or you have to call the superintendent or whatever to get another 5,000, 10,000. A hundred thousand dollars. Amen. I have gotten you more than than they expected to give, and that is a good thing to me.

So what's a yes look like? I'm gonna end this with a little anecdote. This was not a special education case. This was a litigated case in a different area of law. But I represented and this involved a family, okay? And so I represented this person who was in a very, very, contentious family situation, and it did not have to be contentious.

It was contentious on the personal side, and the litigation did not have to be contentious. And so in dealing with my client's sibling, there was a moment when I had to say, Okay, well what, what if that, if what we are proposing is not acceptable, what would you. and, this, difficult person , this person, that was turning down our offer, said, well, I mean, and then started going into like, a list of things.

That had nothing to do with what we were asking. Right? So I'm gonna change the facts a little bit in order to make this make sense. But let's say it was a divorce. It wasn't, but let's say it's a divorce. And so, you know, we said, Well, how about if we give you $50,000 out of the 401k and we give you, all of the tools in the tools shed and we give you, , you know, the spoons and the knives, but we keep the forks and cuz the spoons and the knives are always left over and the plastic set.

So obviously you use your forks more often, but we're giving you two thirds of the silverware and we're keeping what's important. And so then the person was like, No. And so I'm like, Okay, well what would you like? And instead of saying, Well, the, the plastic wear always has the spoons. So spoons have no, service to me and I hate cereal and yogurt, and so could I please have the forks, which would've been like interest based negotiation.

The person was like, Well, you know, I'm only getting my kids three days a week and, I've got this new job and I have to drive my car more. And like all these things that had nothing to do. Our offer that involved a 401k, silverware and tools, right? They started talking about the kids. Totally different situation, but this is, you know, kind of a parallel situation.

And so what I did was I filed a motion. I was like, Well, we've got a rational place to work things out. I'm gonna file a motion and I'm gonna go to court and we're gonna ask the court what we want. So before we started taking testimony, the judge says to. You know, where are you guys in negotiation? And I said, Well, judge, we offered the 401k and the tools and the, and the two pieces of silverware.

And we haven't necessarily heard a counter offer. We would be more than happy to entertain a counter offer, but we haven't heard a counter offer. . And so the person, the judge says, Well, do you have a counter offer? And, and the person says, Well, you only have my kids three days a week and I got this new job and the mileage and goes through more rhetorical stuff that has nothing to do with the division of property, right?

Like it has to do with other things, but it doesn't have to do with this particular thing. And so , the judge literally says, Well, what do you want? And there was the most pregnant pause, What do you want? And this person, like stuttered, was silent for a second and then stuttered and then literally put their arms in the air, like, uh

I don't know, Judge

And I thought, Well, boy, I couldn't have done anything. , I couldn't have done anything with that because they don't know what they want. So here I am trying to be rational, trying to be reasonable, and they don't know what they want. And so, you know, there's a little lesson in that sometimes when you're negotiating the other side doesn't know what they want and there is some skill in getting them to know what they want this person was.

So, An irrational that it would've been very, very hard to do that with. But many, many times you can kinda lead them to understanding what they want, asking a bunch of questions, and there's tons of other negotiation strategies, that you can get in order to figure out what they want. But this person didn't know what they want and so therefore we couldn't have a negotiation.

Do not get caught yourself not knowing what you want, because if you don't know what you. , you can't get it. And that would be a terrible, terrible thing. So it seems so very basic, and I don't mean just know what you want. Know the layers, know the details. Know what you're willing to get rid of. Know what you need the most.

Know those priorities and be able to communicate about them. Seems so simple. See if that helps you in your next negotiation or discussion with your iep. I will see you next week, same time, same place. Have a great week.