Whether you are brokering a business deal or running interference between two squabbling colleagues, the ability to negotiate is critical to professional success. Unfortunately, most of us were never taught the art of negotiation in school and many don’t realize that conflict management skills can, in fact, be learned. Here are some tips:
Do your homework
Imagine your company needs to hire a consulting firm, and you’re negotiating the cost of a six-month contract. The more you know ahead of time about the market value of this kind of service, the more prepared you will be to efficiently and effectively arrive at a fair deal. Be prepared with detailed data you can reference during your conversations with the firm, as it’s hard to argue with concrete facts and figures.
Don’t be afraid of rejection
Negotiation expert Victoria Pynchon tells professional news outlet The Muse that before you start negotiating, you must first be comfortable with the idea of rejection.
“It’s not really a negotiation if we’re asking for something we know our bargaining partner also wants,” Pynchon tells the source. “Negotiation is a conversation whose goal is to reach an agreement with someone whose interests are not perfectly aligned with yours.”
Keep your emotions in check
It’s easy to get angry or upset during negotiations, especially if the other person is raising their voice or losing their temper. It’s always a mistake, however, to let your emotions get the better of you, as it will only undermine your bargaining power.
Know what you want
Negotiating is all about understanding your priorities and those of the other parties in question. Say you are mediating a conflict between two subordinates under your purview — both employees believe they should be the lead manager on a particular project. You realize that one wants the prestige of being “in charge,” while the other is simply particular about whom he works with. Perhaps you negotiate a deal in which the latter agrees to act as second-in-command if he is allowed to handpick the rest of the team.
If you are negotiating on your own behalf, make a list of you goals, in descending order from most important to least important. This way you know exactly what you want and where you are willing to compromise. A common example: Maybe your boss can’t or won’t give you a raise, but is willing to offer more vacation time. Next, make a list of the priorities of any other parties involved, as best as you can determine. Knowledge is power, and the more you know about each person’s ranked interests, the better your position when it comes time to negotiate.
Many people tend to think of good negotiators as hardheaded, aggressive types who don’t care about other people’s interests. On the contrary, the best negotiators are able to put themselves in other parties’ shoes, empathizing with their wants and needs. In his book “Negotiation Boot Camp,” Ed Brodow highlights the importance of active listening, which helps you create rapport with your negotiation counterpart. By showing your genuine interest in understanding their point of view, you build trust, ultimately increasing your chance of getting what you want.
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