Everyone negotiates. When there is more than one person involved, actions are almost always preceded by negotiations, whether that’s with friends, family or coworkers. The question isn’t whether you negotiate, but how well do you negotiate?
Negotiation is critical for any group project, be it a picnic or an email campaign, but in the workplace, your ability to negotiate is equal to your success and happiness on the job. It’s a skill and an art, involving some practical tips and methodologies, but also a great deal of psychological insight.
Negotiation skills aren’t only a benefit for you; they serve the whole organization. Poor negotiations or a lack of negotiating skills can impact the bottom line and ruin customer relationships. So, if you’re curious about how to negotiate, start by learning these skills and the tactics. They’ll come in handy the next time you broker a compromise at work, at home or even on vacation.
Having the right set of skills will help you in any endeavor, and the same is true with negotiating. If you are armed with the following skill sets, then negotiating will be more fruitful.
Never go into a negotiation blind. Without context, no level of negotiation skills will help you. Therefore, know the product, service or whatever the subject of the negotiation may be.
You want to have prepared yourself by understanding not only what you’ll be negotiating, with but who you’ll be negotiating with and what kind of person they are. Create a task list of items to research before entering the negotiation, so you’ll have everything covered. That way you’ll know how to present a compromise that will appeal to the other person.
Often, when negotiating, emotions can take over and one can find themselves talking over the other person. That sort of aggressive approach is sure to backfire, or at least keep the negotiation heated. No one wins in that sort of exchange, and a lot of time will be wasted because of miscommunication.
Instead, try active listening, where you hear not only what the person is saying but how they’re saying it, including their body language. By listening intently you’ll learn more than by getting into a shouting match.
Emotional outbursts might feel good at the time, but what they do is show the other party that you’re no longer in control. This gives them an advantage, because if you give in to frustration or other heated emotions, you’ll be more likely to concede something that you don’t want to or, worse, disrupt the whole negotiating process.
Naturally, one of the most important skills for negotiating is being a strong communicator. You must get your message across clearly and effectively. Poor communications lead to misunderstandings and potentially unresolved conflicts, which help neither side.
Collaboration skills help because negotiations aren’t necessarily an “us versus them” scenario. Most negotiations are really a type of collaboration where two parties with differing views meet and together find a way to mutual satisfaction. By working together, negotiations are less combative, and there will be no hard feelings when they’re over because everyone wins.
Be a Decision-Maker
Negotiations end. There comes a point where both sides have given in some ground and are standing on a shared space that is mutually agreeable. It’s at that time one must decide to accept the deal, but some people just can’t. They’re either indecisive or delusional, thinking they might be able to eke out one more concession. The skill of deciding when to stop is key to successfully closing negotiations.
Having the skills to negotiate is only the beginning. Now comes the act of negotiating where you must put those skills to work. Here are some tactics to employ.
Don’t Think in Terms of Winning
If you walk into a negotiation with the attitude that you’re going to win, then you have already failed. This isn’t about competing. It shouldn’t be adversarial. Instead, you should go into a negotiation with a clear picture of what your goals and objectives are. Remember, it’s a collaboration. You’re not beating someone, you’re working with them for the best possible solution to both your interests.
Think of the Other Person
Empathy is fine, but really what this tactic does is address the give-and-take of any negotiation. If you can help the other person, if you’re aware of what they need, what their goals and objectives are, then you know what to put on the table. Even if you don’t know what they want, you can always ask. It can help cut to the chase and is sure to win points with the other person, which can foster the collaborative atmosphere present in all successful negotiations.
Don’t Assume, Clarify
Chances are both parties are walking into a negotiation with a lot of preconceived ideas of what the other wants. But there’s no guarantee that either side is privy to the other’s motivation or problems. Therefore, it’s always helpful to start the negotiations on the same page by asking the other party what their motivation is.
Find out how they view the negotiation at the outset and clarify yours as well. This creates transparency for the proceeding and allows the negotiations to start from a point of understanding, which cuts out a lot of unnecessary clutter and lets you get right down to business.
Don’t Make Threats
This speaks to the dispassionate attitude that all positive negotiations share. If you let emotions rule your negotiations, then you’re more likely to threaten to walk out or issue an ultimatum that will break down the discussion. Stay professional. Remember you’re in the workplace, and you must work with these people. Burning bridges will just leave you stranded.
Negotiations can get heated, but no side is served by letting that pot boil over. The worst thing anyone can do in a negotiation is painted themselves in a corner by threatening this, that or the other. It’s just self-destructive, and negotiations are supposed to be constructive.
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