Super negotiation skills are something only FBI agents and lawyers need to worry about right?
Not really. When you think about it we spend a lot of time negotiating, whether we realise we are or not. It’s anything from getting our children to cooperate, to solving a dispute between you and someone else, or closing a major business deal. It makes sense we should know how to do it effectively.
So what can you do to give yourself an edge in these situations?
Most people approach a negotiation from a position, purely focused on what they want to get out of the situation. This can negatively affect your outcome. When you bargain over a position there is a tendency to lock yourself in, which doesn’t leave much budging room. In their book The Art of Negotiation, experts Roger Fisher and William Ury point out that behind the opposing views, there are usually common and compatible interests. “The basic problem in a negotiation lies not in conflicting positions, but in the conflict between each side’s needs, desires, concerns and fears”, say Fisher and Ury. If you approach the negotiation from the point of interests, you will more often than not end up with a much better outcome.
So how do you identify what the interests of the other party might be? You can start by asking why – perhaps putting yourself in their shoes. It also helps to ask why not – ask yourself what they see you wanting to get out of this. “If you want someone to listen and understand your reasoning, give your interests and reasoning first and your conclusions or proposals later,” say Fisher & Ury.
There is a great story about two children arguing over an orange. They finally agree to cut the orange and take half each. One child took their half, ate the fruit and threw away the peel, and the other child threw away the fruit and used the peel from their half in a cake they were baking. If only they had found out what each other was really interested in!
Sharing information is a good way to move forward in a negotiation setting. Adam Grant, Wharton professor and author of Give and Take, says that, “Most people are matchers in that they will follow the norm of reciprocity, and respond in kind to the way we treat them”. In other words, if you want someone to trust you, then you need to show that you trust them. If you want them to share information with you, then you need to share information with them.
It is important to know your ideal price or goal, but also have some idea of what you are willing to walk away with. You need to know what your priorities are. Sometimes saving the relationship is more important than getting the outcome you are seeking. You want to know where you are going with your views but also be flexible.
It is also important to be aware of how you are feeling. It can be a good idea to pause for a moment before you take any action. Some emotions cause more harm than good in a negotiation. Being an active listener can help you both hear more of what the other person is saying, and possibly more importantly, everyone is more likely to feel heard.
Try these tips next time you are in the middle of a negotiation and it just might turn out better for everyone.