How do I negotiate better?
As people we negotiate all the time. Whether it is with our parents, our spouses, our friends, bosses, shopkeepers, neighbours or strangers, rarely does a day pass without us negotiating. These negotiations range from the really small to the life-altering. This means that we all have a store-house of knowledge about negotiation i.e. things that we know and understand about this art. And trust me it is an art. It is an integral part of human psychology and life, yet it’s surprising how ignorant or ill-prepared most of us are when it comes to negotiating in our careers.
Working in groups is all about negotiating, and negotiating well. By default, that means that leading teams and businesses is a long stretch of negotiations made continuously one after the other. For a lot of us it’s a strain on our mental capacities and we try and run away from it. And because we don’t enjoy the process we end up making bad bargains and saying yes, where we should say, no.
But just like everywhere else, it’s something you can learn and get better at. And like always, we have your back. So here’s what you need to do to become a better negotiator.
This advice is so obvious that I debated before putting it here. I can’t emphasise enough about the importance of preparation before you get to the negotiating table. In fact, it won’t be incorrect to say that you’ve won more than half the battle if you’ve prepared well.
So how do you prepare? Well, by knowing everything about what is under negotiation. Know the person on the opposite side of the table, what he/she wants, why they want it and how badly they want it. Know yourself just as well, list down the reasons why you want, what you want. List down the various scenarios that could play out and think through your response to the offers and counter-offers that could be made.
It’s all about information and knowing what you know and the other person doesn’t. And vice versa. The more you know the better. There is no such thing as over-preparation.
Negotiations are not about antagonising others, but about creating bridges. Negotiations aren’t a one-time affair; they typically last over a stretch of time. While you can keep second guessing the other side, it’s important to have some level of trust to come to any understanding. Else one risks acrimony. Mistrust can never lead to a harmonious resolution and all negotiations are about resolving situations amicably.
This doesn’t mean you place all your cards on the table. There are many ways of building trust and one of them is to bring some honesty to the table. It’s easy to detect pretentiousness. Don’t be over friendly. Just be honest and true yourself. Once the other side sees that you mean well and are looking for a fair solution, chances are that they will reciprocate as well.
While it’s easy to assume that negotiations are all about talking, the real skill is in listening and listening carefully. Not just to what has been said but also to what’s left unsaid. Talking equals giving information and the more you give the more you hand over power to the other side. The more you listen, the more you know and that’s where you want to be.
How is the other person reacting to certain ideas of yours? How does his body language change to a certain proposal? What are the things he seems excited about? When you listen, you can understand better what drives a person.
It’s not always about outsmarting the other party. In fact the best outcomes are the ones where both sides come out happy. This is especially true if you are negotiating with a future partner.
This should ideally be thought through before you come to the negotiating table. If you really listen to what the other party is saying, you will find room for a win-win. Even if it’s not the best scenario for you, sometimes it’s better to sacrifice a little to accommodate the other and move ahead.
Know what works for you
Like I said above, as you prepare for the negotiations, you create a list of scenarios that you could end up with. What are the scenarios that work for you? What’s the best outcome for you? What is it that you cannot accept, what’s a deal-breaker, as they say? Where do you draw the line? When do you get off the table?
Knowing the answer to these questions is important before you step in to the negotiating room. These answers are like anchors and help you moderate your responses. They give you the boundaries beyond which, you cannot go.
As you practice more and consciously, you will get better at it. You can learn more by reading these books on negotiation.