What is Negotiation?
Negotiation is a form of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR). It is when two or more people attempt to reach an agreement and it’s what we do on a daily basis whether we realise it or not. We negotiate in our personal and professional lives, with family members or colleagues, when we meet new people or third parties and in our social lives without thinking about it.
Negotiation skills matter because they can change our lives and the more you think of a situation as a ‘negotiation’, the better you will become at understanding the other side, knowing what they want to achieve and be able to manage yourself better in various situations that you find yourself in.
Pre-planning your techniques and strategies can put you in a better position so that you are more mindful and know how to achieve what you want from the deal. Role play can be a very strong way to practice what you want with confidence. You may wish to practice ‘negotiating with yourself’ first so that you are pre-prepared should any surprising or unexpected situations arise, for example:
• Why does the opponent want to settle?
• What is the value in it for them?
• What solution do they want to achieve?
• Will they walk away if their desired outcome is not reached or continue to negotiate?
When you first walk into a negotiation room or situation, be curious and remain alert as though you are walking into a new city. It is important that you listen, seek to understand, observe their body language, their tone of voice and when necessary use empathy with the other side to open up dialogue. These skills will help you to determine what the other side wants and what their fears are if the deal is not made, enabling you to consider how that need can be addressed and in turn ensuring the outcome is a positive outcome for all parties involved in the dispute.
Remember, the end goal for every person involved in the negotiation should be to remain flexible and accept the end result; in my experience, flexibility creates freedom. The main focus should be to get an agreement or deal in place so that the parties walk away with a ‘win, win’ situation and if all the parties to the dispute work towards this goal together, a sensible outcome may be achieved and in certain circumstances, long term relationships can be maintained.
You should always remain confident and in a position of strength, know your baseline and reserve the right to walk away from the deal if the negotiation is one sided, for example, if the other side is attempting to capitalise on your every move, or if you feel despite your best efforts, no progress can be made.
At times, negotiations may fail due to issues such as:
• Lack of understanding
• Not building relationships or rapport
• You let your ego get in the way
• You begin to feel competitive
• You become too attached to the outcome
• You fail to listen and fail to ask good questions for a deeper understanding of the motives
• You fail to research and understand the behaviours and previous strategies of the person(s) you are negotiating against
In situations such as the above, when you begin to feel overwhelmed, slow down and if you are having a face to face discussion, perhaps reconvene after the parties’ emotions have calmed down. You may wish to meet at a neutral venue to ensure all the parties feel as relaxed as one another to move the parties to the end goal.
• Stay realistic during a negotiation
• Stay focused
• Be careful about ‘showing your hand’ too soon, and
• Remember, everything in life is a negotiation
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