The human side of negotiation

Posted by Nina Mostafa on 01/03/17 10:00

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How often do you think you use negotiation skills? We may not realise it but negotiation is a big part of our daily life. We negotiate various factors in our roles at work, from project timelines to resources, to parameters for our performance indicators or salaries, and even in our personal lives, with conflicting opinions, or even something as simple as where to dine. Negotiation is about reaching an agreement where both parties walk away with mutually acceptable terms. The ability to get what we want is only enhanced by our ability to negotiate effectively.

The word ‘negotiation’ has copped a bad reputation. Oftentimes, we associate the act with competition or confrontation or believe that only an all-or-nothing approach can win; the word ‘win’ supporting the act of competing.

But what if we take the notion of competing out of the equation and approach a negotiation in a more fair way?

After all, the reason you’re getting into a negotiation in the first place is either because one party wants something from another, or that both parties want something from each other. Once you each establish what is important and unimportant to each, the negotiations can begin. The questions that each person needs to ask is ‘What do I want from you?’ and ‘What can I give you in return?’

But how to do this? How exactly do you start asking those questions without sounding contentious? Let’s explore.

 

Give and take

Negotiation is about give and take. Ever heard the term ‘all take and no give’? It brings to mind an imbalanced relationship between two parties where one is reaping all the rewards, and the other, well, none. When this continues, all power lies with only one party – the taker. This is not a sustainable arrangement. If this was a negotiation scenario, the giver has lost all their power.

Before things spiral out of control, it’s important to assert priorities – yours and theirs. In a negotiation, these priorities are also known as interests.

So let’s take a step back and think about how this could be done more objectively from the start.

Make no mistake, give and take is not about compromising. It is about reciprocity. To leverage from an equal platform, consider your key needs and issues. We’ll call these the ‘non-negotiables’ – these are the things you simply cannot, and will not, give up, no matter the price. These don’t necessarily have to be tangible issues; and price does not necessarily have to be a dollar amount. These might be items most dear to you. For instance, when negotiating within a relationship, professional or otherwise, elements that might play a big role include integrity, respect, and trust. These are the ‘non-negotiables’, no matter what the price.

Once you’ve worked out your ‘non-negotiables’, every other card you hold can be offered up as an option for trade.

If you are finding that you are all ‘give’ and no ‘take’, part of gaining back more equal power is to be transparent in presenting your priorities, as well as what options you can give the other party. Then you have a clear perception of your priorities. If the other party does the same, then the trading can begin. This is give and take.

 

The ‘non-negotiables’ are the things you simply cannot, and will not, give up, no matter the price. For instance, when negotiating within a relationship, professional or otherwise, elements that might play a big role include integrity, respect, and trust. These are the ‘non-negotiables’, no matter what the price.

 

Separate the people from the issues

The most important part of many negotiations is the relationship itself. A negotiation works most successfully when both parties have rapport, trust and integrity.

But for a successful negotiation, it is also vital to separate the people from the issues. For only by doing so can both parties reach a solution without focusing simply on their own vested interests but also what would benefit the other party.

Remember, the reason you’re getting into a negotiation in the first place is because one or both needs something the other has. Normally this occurs because there is a bigger issue that this need feeds. Your task is to uncover what this issue is so that ideally, you can fix it collaboratively through your negotiation.

By separating the people from the issue, both parties can start to look at the issue as an entity on its own and take on a ‘how can we fix this?’ approach, as opposed to a ‘what’s in it for me?’ approach.

Some may think that negotiation skill is all about how adept you are at speaking to your opponent. Hardly. It is more about how good you are at speaking with the other party. Listening, therefore, becomes a critical skill.

 

Some may think that negotiation skill is all about how adept you are at speaking to your opponent. Hardly. It is more about how good you are at speaking with the other party. Listening, therefore, becomes a critical skill.

 

The important role that listening plays

The key to effectively succeeding in a negotiation is to apply some of the more basic communication skills, such as listening and questioning; and combining that with the ability to see the other person’s point of view. This sense of awareness will allow you to better hone in on meeting the needs of the other party. So find out what interests the other party has and what options are on the table for discussion. After all, if you don’t know what they want, how can you bring all options to the table?

Applying listening skills helps you to build rapport and trust, and gain credibility. Applying listening skills can also help you to uncover any underlying interests to explore this list of needs that may not have been brought to the surface for any number of reasons.

 

Get talking

Getting a clear idea on what the other party’s interests are and having clarity on your own interests are important aspects for a successful negotiation. When we think of negotiations, we sometimes forget the best way to do this – through the simple art of communication.

 

Getting a clear idea on what the other party’s interests are and having clarity on your own interests are important aspects for a successful negotiation.

 

The human side of negotiation can take you far into the conversation. When applying effective negotiation techniques, remember to also be flexible, creative and honest in your approach – and remain human. Then get talking.

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Topics: opinion, Communication skills, Effective conversations, Influencing skills, negotiation

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