Life is a series of negotiations. We start practicing our negotiation skills from early childhood and spend most of our days negotiating for something or another. Whether formally or informally the majority of interactions we have at work and at home are negotiations.
Negotiation serves two distinct, vital life functions – gathering information and influencing behaviour. Harnessing your negotiating ability in the workplace is an essential soft skill that needs to be practiced and built on over the course of your career.
Here are some insights on how to understand and craft your negotiation skills.
Negotiation is a dialogue between two or more parties with the intention of reaching a mutually beneficial outcome while avoiding argument and dispute.
Typically, there are 3 Levels of negotiation:
• Win – Win
• Win – Lose
Firstly, it is important to acknowledge and recognise what level you are in, and what level your counterpart is in so that you can adjust your approach and get them to move to the level you want them to be at. Although you are looking for a way to reach amicable agreements, do not let them undermine you or make you feel uncomfortable.
Win – Lose, this is more than likely the typical starting point. If you sense that they are setting up hurdles to test you or playing games to expose your weakness, show them that you understand the games that they are trying to play and try to neutralise them as quickly as possible. Crucially don’t feel that you need to negotiate too early.
In negotiation it is important to try get to the balanced level. Typically, this involves a little bit of compromise, both give and take. If you are able to accommodate a demand ensure that you respond to the demand with a conditional concession, ask for something in return that is of equal or greater value. This is important to retain the balance level otherwise one party may feel that it was too easy, or one party could ultimately feel put out.
Win – Win is the ultimate level of collaboration. This level is based on trust and transparency by both parties who are working together towards a common goal. This level is exceptionally hard to attain, as it’s based-on trust. It is the most talked about but least achieved level of negotiation. Both parties must be willing to share their needs behind their position.
Expert negotiators are able to easily navigate through all three levels. The key to successful negotiation outcomes is based on the principles of fairness, seeking mutual benefit, and maintaining a relationship. It is a process of give and take, resulting in a compromise, where each side makes concessions for the benefit of everyone involved.
Often easier said than done.
So how can you increase your skills as a negotiator at work?
You need to be an expert in the product or service you are offering. Once you understand why they need your product or service you are able to position it as a benefit to them.
Once you know your strength you can be flexible and adaptive in your approach. People are willing to pay for quality if they see value in it.
To end off here are some top tips to keep in mind when negotiating.
• Negotiation is all about people skills – you need to know how your behaviour affects others.
• Think about how you can change your style to meet the listener’s needs.
• Be confident even when you are not – pretend that you are.
• Silence – do not fill in the silence- know when to keep quiet.
• Preparation is key.
• 80:20 Rule. Listen. Let them do 80% of the talking. The more they share the better you can negotiate – watch for nonverbal communication, tailor your questions to what they need.
• Remember you are an expert at what you do.
• Set boundaries with anger, the situation is the problem not necessarily the people with whom you are negotiating.
To master negotiations, we have to overcome any preconceived aversions we may associate with negotiation. You don’t have to like it, but just remember whatever your life is like now, it could be better by learning to be more effective at negotiation.