In order to be effective at any business endeavor learning how to negotiate properly is not simply a "nice skill to have," it has become an essential requirement in career advancement. This course will teach you what you need to know in order to become accomplished at finding that perfect "middle-ground" in any deal. For those who relish the idea of engaging in what some call the "dance" of compromise, you will also profit from the beneficial information contained within this course. Lastly, those who tend to overshoot their mark will learn how to be more restrained in their negotiations. Making full use of this course, in its entirety, is the first step in getting more of what you want in life and business.
To develop your skills at negotiating, it is important to first understand some basic principles about what negotiating is and is not.
Negotiation is a process in which two or more individuals agree upon a direction to take, resolve a dispute and/or bargain for some type of advantage, whether mutual or individual. What propels two parties into negotiation is a desire to come to a mutual agreement or decision based on the input of both sides. The ultimate outcome is that both parties come to a satisfactory conclusion, although this is not always the case.
The Importance of Listening
The skill of listening cannot be stressed enough when it comes to understanding the basic requirements of negotiating well. How adept you are at listening will determine how accomplished you will become at negotiating. Far too many people enter into discussions with their minds made up in regard to what they want. They already have decided on their own agenda, and they know what they are going to say before a meeting ever takes place; this makes it difficult to negotiate properly or fairly with the other party. If you tune out what the other party is saying, just waiting until it is your turn to talk, you may as well not even bother with the pretense of discussions.
The point of negotiating is to walk into the endeavor with an open mind and a flexible agenda so that you are being responsive rather than rigid. If you have problems listening to others, then you need to practice acquiring this skill first. The next time someone speaks to you, focus only on what they are saying. Pay attention not only to the words they speak but also to their facial expressions, tone of voice, and body language. See if you can recall what someone said to you two hours earlier, two days ago,and two weeks ago.
This is not about "memorizing" but about really hearing what the other person is saying to you, and words are only part of the story. With time you will become better equipped to "read between the lines" of what others are saying. Watch the speaker closely. Is he or she tense, edgy, and restless? Or relaxed, comfortable, and confident? Can the person be persuaded to change her or his mind, or has the person dug into a position? Would pressing the issue create a bigger problem, or is it the perfect time to push your point? These nuances can be discerned only when you have acquired the skill of listening well, so if you are not a good listener, you need to start by working on this first. How? Well, as the saying goes, how do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice!
Start at home with those closest to you. If you live alone, practice with friends and acquaintances. You will start to notice that people respond well to being heard. Study the box below and start using the tips there in your next conversation. Keep using them until they become second nature.
The Dos and Don'ts of Listening Well:
Do make eye contact. Looking at the person who is speaking will let the speaker know he or she has your attention.
Do give appropriate feedback at key points. An occasional nod or the use of the words, "Yes," "Right," "I understand," and "OK," lets the speaker know that you are absorbing the words and are following along, which provides an incentive to continue speaking.
Don't give advice. Unless you are pointedly asked, do not dole out advice. Because people tell you about a specific event does not mean they are seeking your opinion on what they should do; they may just be venting or sharing something that is troubling them.
Don't interrupt. When others are speaking, we often have a strong desire to interrupt them with our own opinion or input before they have had a chance to finish speaking. Wait until the other party is finished before giving your feedback.
Do ask for clarification. If you do not understand what others are saying, do not be afraid to ask them to explain what they mean. Wait for them to pause and then say something like, "I'm not clear on that last point," or "Could you explain that a little more?"
Whether you realize it or not, you negotiate on a daily basis without giving it much thought. We negotiate at work with our direct supervisors, employees, suppliers, clients, and contacts all the time. Below is a short but valuable dialog of a negotiation of the type that takes place every day in the business world:
Employee: "I need to leave work early this Friday, but I can stay late on Monday. Would that be all right?"
Boss: "I don't need you to stay late on Monday. How about staying late on Tuesday to help me prepare that big proposal I'm working on?"
"OK, Tuesday it is. Thanks."
The above dialog is negotiation in its simplest form. The employee needs something from the boss. To ensure that he or she secures the desired request, a beneficial exchange is offered right up front, thus making it easy for the employer to say yes. Of course, if there were an important meeting on that particular Friday, then the request would most likely have been denied. This is why it is important to know as much as possible beforehand as to whether a situation is negotiable at all. Also, note how the request is phrased; "I need
to leave work early on Friday, but I can stay late on Monday
." The statement/request is clear and to the point; this cuts back on unnecessary or confusing banter between the parties. This is a simple negotiation from which much can be learned for more complicated interactions. The principle is the same. If one can master this simple form of give and take, then one can easily translate it to a broader audience or situation.
We commonly negotiate in our personal lives without realizing we are doing so. If you are in a relationship, you negotiate with your partner daily. If you have children, you negotiate hourly, sometimes every 15 minutes. We negotiate with friends, extended family, and strangers on a regular basis. When it comes to personal negotiations, we may call the process different names. Deciding, discussing, arguing, and suggesting are all terms we use for personal negotiating, but make no mistake, when you engage in this process, you are actively employing the skill of negotiation. These are perfect situations in which to practice your business negotiation skills.
Next time you and your partner or friends discuss dinner plans, pay close attention to how you handle your "opponent." Do you try to come to a conclusion that is satisfying to all, or a win-win settlement? Do you get angry or frustrated and storm from the room? Do you give up, give in, and just go along with what others want? Do you stubbornly refuse to bend at all? You can learn a lot about your negotiating style by observing these seemingly unimportant daily interactions. Use these situations to find your strengths and weaknesses; from these you can adjust, build, and expand on what you learn and apply this information to your business dealings.
Recognizing a Negotiable Situation
It is necessary to determine if the situation at hand is indeed negotiable before even opening discussions. There is a school of thought that insists that "everything is negotiable," which falsely leads people to believe that they can persuade anyone, anywhere, to change her or his mind about anything. This is simply not true. Some things are strictly nonnegotiable, and it is a wiser choice to recognize that fact and move on to another situation rather than to waste valuable time and effort in a no-win dead end.
If the other party or parties have no desire or interest in pursuing talks, it may be best to leave the discussions for another time or concede negotiations completely. There is no secret or special trick that will help you determine whether something is nonnegotiable. The other party will be quite adamant if there is no interest in entering discussions, making it clear that negotiations are not possible at that current time or ever. Persisting to seek negotiations after being clearly told that it is not desired may very well cause you to lose any future chance of opening discussions on the topic. However, there are times when the other party or parties are on the fence about whether to negotiate. Learning how to listen, read body language, and research well are all skills that will prove helpful in deciding if pursuit is possible.
Negotiation is essentially the art of bargaining well. Before you can begin to learn how to negotiate, you must first learn how to listen well to others. Practice the art of listening before moving into more advanced methods of bargaining and making deals. Once you have acquired the skill of listening well, start practicing negotiating in smaller areas of your life. Use work and personal situations to hone your ability to listen, persuade, and reach mutually beneficial decisions. Finally, be sure to determine whether a situation is indeed negotiable. If your partner got sick the last time you convinced him or her to eat spicy food, the odds are you are not going to negotiate Mexican, Indian, or Moroccan cuisine for dinner. It's nonnegotiable.