A Crash Course in Negotiation

As you go about your workday, do you take time to negotiate the obstacles you regularly face or do you just walk away in disgust?

Please don’t walk away – come back and negotiate. Almost everything, in every aspect of your life, is negotiable. Having effective negotiation skills is the key. Especially in these difficult economic times, your ability to negotiate may mean the difference between success or ruin.

We negotiate transactions and conflicts – everything from which restaurant we choose for lunch to how to structure our businesses and our lives. These are the nine things you need to know before you sit down for your next negotiation.

1. Every negotiation brings an opportunity for meaningful and positive interaction. So, instead of seeing your negotiations as stressful hurdles, view them as possibility seeking endeavors.

2. Negotiation is a process, not an event. A diagram of what a negotiation should look like includes four fluid phases. The first phase is individual planning, preparation, and analysis. This is followed by relationship building; then an information exchange that includes a first offer, persuasion, concessions and compromise; and finally, agreement.

3. Before you ever meet the person on the other side, prepare. Do your homework. Find out as much as you can about your fellow negotiator and what his interests might be. Learn the facts and know your alternatives.

4. Be ready to deal with conflict by knowing yourself and your natural responses to conflict. If you are afraid of conflict you may not be able to move through a difficult, but necessary, discussion. Often it is best to respond without reacting. And while that may not be easy when you are emotionally triggered, it can bring you significant benefits.

5. Work with the person on the other side, not against them. Use your best communication skills, be clear and concise. Ask open-ended questions, then be quiet and listen. Be flexible and open to unseen possibilities.

6. Seek to understand the cultural and personality factors that may impact the process – but don’t stereotype or pigeonhole.

7. Be prepared for dirty negotiation tactics. Dirty tactics fall into three categories deliberate deception, psychological manipulation, and positional pressure maneuvers. When faced with a dirty negotiator (for instance the car salesman who leaves you sitting in a room for long periods of time) you have three options. You can identify and confront the dirty tactic, you can fall prey to it, or you can walk away. Make your decision based on the circumstances and your motivation. Remember, you choose your response.

8. Power balancing is a critical component of all negotiations. When negotiating always consider possible power imbalances and the differences between having ‘power-over’ (coercion, control, and dominance) and having the ‘power-to’ (the ability to act, to influence, to say no). Additionally, take into account the power source, which might be money, position, rank, or the personal power that emanates from a person’s individual characteristics. Finally, keep in mind that often a more motivated negotiator can overcome a lack of power.

9. There are five basic negotiation styles: competing, avoiding, accommodating, compromising, and collaborating. Each style has strengths and weaknesses and can be effective at certain times, in certain situations, and with certain individuals. While we may each have a preferred style knowing when and how to use each style appropriately can produce the most successful results.

a) Competing works when winning is the goal and winning is more important then the relationship with the person on the other side.

b) Avoiding is effective when neither the goal nor the relationship with the person on the other side is important. When it’s misused important goals are put at risk and the chance to improve the connection with the person on the other side is missed. So use this strategy with care.

c) Accommodating works best when the goal is to maintain relationships and please the other side.

d) Compromising is effective when you want to find a quick balance between meeting goals and building or maintaining a relationship.

e) Collaborating is effective when it is critical to both meet one’s own goals and to improve a relationship. While this may sound like the ideal strategy it is not appropriate for every situation; collaboration can be time consuming and often requires a commitment to the process that is not realistic unless a serious level of connection exists between the parties.

Finally, here is your homework: keep learning about negotiation and yourself as a negotiator. And, then, please, write to me and let me know your findings.