This is the sixteenth installment in our 25-week series exploring the 25 competencies, or soft skills, that our assessments measure. Each week we’ll give you the definition of that competency, explain its value, and give you tips to help you develop it.
This week: Negotiation.
Negotiation doesn’t just mean playing hardball, it requires listening to many points of view and facilitating agreements between two or more parties. The goal of any negotiation should always be a win-win solution. Though going for the kill and sticking to your guns may get you what you want in the short term, it won’t help you in the long run.
Good negotiators take the time to understand where each party is coming from. What is their ideal outcome? They do a great job at identifying what parts of the issue each party is more lenient on. And which parts they are most passionate about. They use this knowledge to find a solution that will get each party as close to their ideal as possible.
Good negotiators come prepared to every interaction with as much information as they can find on the issue at hand. They use this knowledge to make sure that each party has the most accurate facts needed to make a decision and reach a compromise.
Often people feel that Negotiation must be a zero-sum game, but it doesn’t have to be. Those who are skilled at Negotiation create a non-threatening environment where each party can be honest and open about what they want. Which improves the likelihood of finding a successful, win-win solution.
A great negotiator also knows what each party is willing to give up.
Part of the information gathering that a good negotiator must do is to understand what each party is willing to concede. Knowing where someone is willing to compromise can be just as important as knowing where they won’t. People often ask for more than they actually want. Because they expect to have to concede at least a little. A great negotiator can uncover just how much they’re willing to give up and still be satisfied.
Compromise is really the only way to find a win-win solution. So it’s imperative for you, as the negotiator, to get both sides to find something they’re willing to give in on. When you know what someone is willing to concede you can pair that with what the other person wants. And vice versa.
But trying to guess what they’re willing to part with won’t work. You may end up offering concessions that they don’t really need in order to make the deal work. At the end of the day, great negotiating comes down to great communication. Getting both parties to clearly state what they want and what they’re willing to give up will make the process so much smoother and more successful. It may sound simplistic, but that’s really all negotiation is communication.
Negotiation doesn’t have to be intimidating.
People often tense up at the word Negotiation. Thinking of big deals getting made behind closed boardroom doors by big-time lawyers. And yes, those types of negotiations do happen, but they are not the most common form of negotiation. Negotiation is used in just about every business context. Selling, purchasing, staffing, borrowing, and initiating transactions. We are all negotiating to some degree every day. We’re using these skills on a regular basis.
Good Negotiation skills include being well prepared, showing patience, and maintaining integrity. People with good Negotiation skills are able to break down bigger issues into smaller ones. These people have good intuitive insight, practical thinking ability, and the ability to think on their feet. More experienced negotiators have a model of effective negotiation strategies that they use in order to reduce resistance.
In contrast, a person who hasn’t developed their Negotiation skills may be insensitive to others’ need to be heard and have a hard time ensuring that their message is on track. They need to understand the importance of developing a plan for gaining support and buy-in. Less experienced negotiators are more apt to compromise themselves when they meet with resistance because they lack confidence.
If you’d like to develop your Negotiation skills, you can start by making sure to cut out assumptions.
We often assume that we know what someone else wants from a situation. But that is only viewing the problem through our own lens. And it is colored by our own preferences. Someone else might be looking for a completely different outcome.
We also make assumptions the other way. Assuming that they know what we want. It seems so obvious to us, but they have no way of knowing what’s going on in our heads. Assumptions lead to miscommunication across the board. And can turn a negotiation sour quickly.
Instead of assuming that you know what the other person is looking for and that they know what you want, take the time to make it explicit. The next time you’re working to come to a deal with someone, fully explain your perspective and ask them to do the same. The more information you have the better. Especially when you’re learning more about what the other party really wants out of this negotiation. If you assume that you know what they want instead of clarifying, you may offer them benefits they’re not looking for.
Negotiation makes the world go round.
Negotiation is a key skill in today’s world. With so many different groups interacting all the time, we would get nowhere without negotiation. Even small, everyday compromises require negotiation. If you grew up with siblings, I’m sure you have more than one example of this.
Being a great negotiator can help you in both your personal and professional life. When you can help yourself and others reach effective compromises, you’ll build better relationships across the board. And you’ll become a trusted advisor for others as well. People will come to you to help them solve their problems.
Negotiation is about bringing two opposing sides together. It’s finding the goals they each have and helping them get there. Helping people to reach a productive compromise can be one of the most satisfying tasks in the world.
If you’d like to learn more ways to develop your Negotiation skills, download our Negotiation Rx PDF here.