Essential negotiation skills

When do you need strong negotiation skills?

Whether you are finalizing the details of the multi-million dollar deal or discussing a new project or deciding with your other half what to have for dinner, you are negotiating. And the better you do it, the happier you will be with the outcome.

But also, if you use your negotiating skills well, the people you are negotiating with will be happy too!

What is negotiation?

Negotiation essentially involves two or more parties finding the best solution possible to a common problem. People who are great at negotiating are usually the ones controlling the process and go away with the results they want or are satisfied with regardless whether or not they have made any compromises along the way.

Negotiation is not only making big decisions. When you are deciding whose turn it is to run the chores or clean the house you are also negotiating. In reality, when we work with other people, most of our time is spent negotiating.

For any project to be successful, the roles, strategies, responsibilities and deadlines all need to be agreed. And ideally, the decision has to satisfy everybody.

And, of course, there are situations where the obvious negotiation process is taking place – for example negotiation the contract or payment terms with the client or finalizing a business deal.

So what skills do you need to have to be successful at negotiating?

Do your homework

Preparation is the key in anything, but especially so in negotiation. Use your common sense to see how much detail you need to go into.

To help you do your preparation, here are some factors to consider:

  • Goals – think about what is it that you are trying to achieve during the negotiation? What the goals of the other party might be?
  • What are the things you might be able to ask for and what are things you are prepared to give away? What are the non negotiables for you?
  • What are the possible alternatives? If you really can’t achieve your goals, what would be the best alternative? You will be in a better position if you have a few options ready, so spend some time thinking and assessing what these options can be.
  • If you have already had negotiations with this person already, how have that gone in the past? Also have a think of what kind of relationships you would like to have with them in the future.
  • Considering all the information you have at the moment, what would be the most likely outcome of this negotiation?
  • Is this a big, one off deal or is it a series of negotiations? What do you and the other party has to gain or loose?
  • Who is in the better position? How might this affect the negotiation?
  • taking into account all of the above points, what do you consider to be a fair outcome – the one that you can suggest with confidence?

Choose your negotiation style

Most of the people think that there is only one style in negotiation – the one that gets you what you want. In actuality, there are quite a few to choose from. It is important, however, to change your style to suit the subject of the negotiation you enter into.

Keep in mind of what is it that you are trying to achieve, how important is to ‘win completely’ and how willing are you to compromise. Also keep in mind what kind of relationship you would like to keep with the other party moving forward.

Start negotiating

When you have finished with the preparation, it i snow time to start negotiating.

From the very beginning, keep the desired outcome in mind.

Negotiation can be quite an emotional process. To avoid a conflict, reduce the tension and reduce the chances of negotiation going sour, keep in mind the following steps:

  • treat the other party with respect
  • don’t get personal – separate the person and the problem
  • understand the other party’s point of view
  • make sure to listen first and then talk
  • stick to the facts
  • explore available options together

If you will be working with this person in the future, you would both want to be open and fair. But even if you are not, it is always better to get to a win-win situation.

Here are some examples of what you can do:

  • try to come to the solution to accommodate both parties
  • suggest alternative solutions, explore other possibilities that might work for everyone
  • look for favors that you can both trade
  • you can also offer compensation if needed

Using approaches like these, will help you build good relationships with the other party and also build a good reputation. However, it is also good to remember that the other party might follow different tactics and go for a harder approach, so it is important to be ready.

Increase your chances

Regardless of how prepared you are or what style of negotiation you chose, you will also need to use a range of people skills to achieve the results you want.

Being assertive is extremely important in negotiations. Listening is another helpful skill. Try to find a balance between emotion and logic. Having great persuasion techniques and using them correctly can help you find a natural negotiation approach.

Keep on track and keep the end goal in mind and try to avoid the common negotiation mistakes as well as do’s and dont’s of persuasion.

In the end

Negotiation happens in all areas of life, not just workplace and business. You will need to do your homework and prepare for different possible outcomes. Choose your negotiation style according to what you want to achieve and what kind of relationships you want to have with the opposite party in the future.


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