The art of negotiation and why it applies to everyone


Negotiation, like most other processes is a certain skill that has to be learnt and polished over time, mostly through negotiation training.

Prepare to be bold and upfront

Successful negotiators know that everything is negotiable. You will have to incorporate that mentality and quit being meek (if that is your disposition). But being assertive does not mean being bumptious and overbearing. There is a fine line between being bold and unpleasant. Learn to express your feelings in a non-threatening way. You can practice being assertive by learning to make ‘I’ statements rather than‘you’ statements. For instance, instead of saying ‘you should not bid that high’ try saying ‘I can’t agree with such a high bid’.

How do you draw the line between being assertive and hostile? Assertiveness is defined as protecting your business interests while respecting the interests and feelings of others. Being insensitive to other people’s business interests and feelings can be regarded as hostile. To understand the right balance, you will need to learn from experts with some serious negotiation experience, for which there are negotiation firms out there that teach these skills.

Learn to challenge statements

This simply means that you should not take everything at face value. Being gullible will lead to failure. Healthy skepticism is advised. Learn to make up your mind rather than being easily mislead. Of course this will have to be done in a discrete and polite way. The other party should know that they are talking to an informed person who will not naively accept everything without question. For this you should do plenty of research and be aware of the market conditions.

Learn to listen

It is amazing how many people keep jabbering away incessantly without realizing how detrimental it is for negotiations. Negotiators are sleuths who are probing the other party. How can you understand their point of view if you don’t even listen in the first place? Listening is a great virtue that will not only win you respect but will also allow you to formulate an apt reply to anything that is unreasonable. Half of conflict resolution involves listening. If the other people feel that you are giving due regard to their opinions then they will be willing to continue but not otherwise.

Apply the 70/30 principle. Listen 70 percent of the time and talk incisively 30 percent of the time. Ask questions wherever you require information and listen carefully before you give your reply.

Understand the position of the other party beforehand

Like all great sleuths you must do your homework. What are their strengths and weaknesses? Where do they stand in the market? In short you must gather as much information as possible about the other party. Armed with this information you will be able to turn negotiations in your favor.

Be willing to walk away

Don’t plunge into every negotiation as if it is a do-or-die scenario. Accept it if it is a good deal. If it’s not, then just leave it. You must learn to say ‘no’ to a bad deal. Saying a firm ‘no’ has great power and can force the other side into making concessions. You must show that you are not desperate. If the other party thinks that you have better options then they will likely cave in.

Be patient

Things are done very differently in several regions around the world. The approach is invariably unhurried and for a very good reason. They know that impetuous people make mistakes. You display strength when you are unhurried. They will believe that you are not under pressure to conclude the deal and will subsequently make compromises.

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