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NEGOTIATION SKILLS: A Few Tried-And-True Tips for Negotiating

Even though we may not recognize it, we are constantly negotiating:  workload with the boss, how late the kids can stay up, who will take the pets to the vet, and what you will or won’t do for a customer.  As Herb Cohen, in Negotiate This suggest, “the world is a negotiating table.”  Yet how many of us really know how to negotiate?  Wouldn’t it be handy to know a few tried-and-true tips?  Let me share with you some ideas from our Negotiation Skills training.

First, we need to understand the concept of “shadow negotiation.”  Shadow negotiation is the type of interpersonal communication and power plays that go on in the “shadows” or behind-the-scenes, which determine the amount of give-and-take there will be in the negotiation.  For example, a co-worker who has done you a favor in the past might be expecting a return favor in the current negotiation without anything being said.  It’s important when dealing with shadow negotiation to surface the rules and expectations being used in the shadows such as the expectation that compromise between two co-workers will be expected.  Remember that a slight change in your position, such as surfacing what’s in the shadows, will create a dynamic shift in the negotiation.   The question to be asked here is:  what do each of us have in our minds that we need to surface before we begin negotiating?

Negotiation is always about two things:  substance (what people have to say about the issue) and the relationship (balancing the terms in the relationship such as equality and subordination).  It’s important to realize that reaching resolution in the substance portion of the negotiation does not necessarily mean there is resolution in the relationship portion.  Fisher and Ury in Getting To Yes, suggest “It is important to carry on negotiation in a way that will help rather than hinder future relations.  The ongoing relationship is far more important than the outcome of a particular negotiation.” With this in mind, we should focus on what’s called integrative negotiation rather than distributive negotiation.  Integrative negotiation focuses on “expanding the pie,” allowing for trade-offs and exploring issues from multiple angles – what we might call a win-win approach.  Distributive negotiation is a win-lose approach which focuses on personal gain and ultimately can destroy the relationship.

So let’s imagine we’re going into a negotiation.  The first thing we need to determine is our BATNA:  Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement.  In other words, we must identify our bottom line and know exactly how far we’re willing to go in the negotiation.  Our BATNA stays in our hip pocket and is not shared in the negotiation.  Secondly, we need to be clear about what the other party wants from you.  See if there are common goals between you and know what concessions you’re willing to make before you start.

There is an expression - “come on like velvet” – which is very apt in negotiation.  How you open the discussion and present yourself is critical.  You want to exert control over the process by establishing the goals and ground rules, including the criteria that will determine that the negotiation is successful (remember to include both substance and relationship criteria).  During this time, look to see if the other person is being open and direct, and if not, surface with a question (I sense that you have a concern that you’re not sharing.  Is this accurate or are my feelings unfounded?).  Throughout the negotiation, talk less and listen more.  Try to trade what is “cheap” for you but valuable for the other person.

If the negotiation is taking time and the other party starts to suggest a quick resolution that you don’t like, just wince and wait.  The first person who talks after the wince will typically be the one who gives in.

People generally will give more to people they like.  So, it’s important to be likeable during the negotiation.  That will happen if you practice “blending or mirroring” with the other person visually, verbally and conceptually.  Blending reduces the differences between us, as we do this naturally with people we like.  Just make sure that it’s not so obvious that the other person begins to notice; only do behaviors that would naturally occur if you were getting along.

If the other person is good at pushing your buttons, interrupt and name the button being pushed.  “When you suggest that I don’t care, it is not accurate. I care a great deal that both of our needs are heard.”

Finally, if you’ve reach an impasse in the negotiation, try to figure out what criteria is causing the snag.  Return to any previous agreements that have been made and try to expand the pie.  Sometimes it’s good to remind each other of the impact on the relationship if agreement can’t be reached.  If all that doesn’t work, take it off the table and ask for a time-out.  Better to live to negotiate another day than destroy the relationship.


If you liked this, you may want to read these:

What’s Your Body Saying to Others? 

Deb’s Top 10 Tips for Effective Communication

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