“Successful negotiation is not about getting to “yes’; it’s about mastering ‘no’ and understanding what the path to an agreement is.” – Christoper Voss
“Let us move from the era of confrontation to the era of negotiation. “ – Richard M. Nixon
“Negotiation is not a policy. It is a technique. It’s something you use when it’s to your advantage, and something that you don’t use when it’s not to your advantage.” – John Bolton
Negotiation skills – we have heard so much about them. Much has been said and written on that topic. But what are they? How can we be good in negotiations? What are the most important skills when it comes to successful deals? This is going to be the focus of our article.
First, let’s try and find what the word “negotiation” means. Basically, negotiation is a dialogue that takes place between two sides, trying to reach an agreement. Regardless of your job title, you may potentially have to face many situations in which negotiation skills may come in handy. For example, you may take part in negotiations between you and your colleagues, other departments, and clients.
As an employee, you may start negotiating your salary with your boss. The subject of your negotiations with your boss can also be the terms of your contract. It is undeniable that negotiation skills are super important. Let’s have a look at some of the most important ones.
“We all make choices, but in the end, our choices make us”. – Ken Levine.
As a person trying to strike a better deal you need to be able to make good and quick decisions. Remember that those decisions that you make are likely to have a long-term effect on the profits of your company. It is crucial that when deciding you carefully consider all the alternatives and possible outcomes.
“Emotions can get in the way or get you on the way.” – Mavis Mashura.
Any emotion can significantly affect the way we make decisions. While it is always important not to allow your emotions to get in the way of decision-making, you can also make use of your emotions and even extract benefits from them. And as an emotionally intelligent person, you should be able to do that.
Possessing emotional intelligence should also enable you to read and correctly understand other people’s feelings and emotions. You will also be able to fathom what they are trying to imply – it is true that many people try to avoid explicit statements when negotiating.
“I remind myself every morning: nothing I say this day will teach me anything. So, if I am going to learn, I must do it by listening.” – Larry King, CNN
The process of negotiating always inevitably entails communication and communication, in its turn, always requires excellent listening skills. And despite that obvious fact many people and negotiators are still bad, bad listeners. Instead of trying to hear what others are saying, they are worrying about whether they have been understood by their interlocutors. And when their interlocutor speaks, they just impatiently wait for him or her to finish their sentence without making any effort to listen to them.
Whenever you must negotiate, do it by actively listening to what your interlocutor is saying. Believe me, they will take notice that you are trying to hear what they say. Your efforts to understand them will make them feel validated and will make them view you as an ally rather than a competitor. This can have a positive effect on the results of your negotiations. Hence, listening will always pay off.
“Empathy is seeing with the eyes of another, listening with the ears of another and feeling with the heart of another”. – Alfred Adler.
Again, no matter what your job title is, it is very likely that you will encounter people whose points of view may be at odds with yours. It is just inevitable because it is simply human nature. You do not have to agree with everyone on every point. But even if you don’t share the opinion of other people, try at least to understand the reasons for their opinion and why they are trying to argue their point.
Why? Well, because even if you disagree with a person, you can still establish positive relationships with them. This is also important as it may have a positive effect on the result of your negotiations. So, listen and at least acknowledge what you hear.
“Say what you mean and mean what you say” – (an old adage).
When you speak clearly other people can easily understand you and your point. On the contrary, if you speak in a roundabout way you only do a great disservice to yourself. Nobody likes it when others are beating around the bush. In fact, not only can such a way of speaking potentially annoy the people with whom you are trying to negotiate, but it can also lead your negotiations to failure.
Another important point when it comes to the clarity of speaking – these days most people have short attention spans and is it extremely challenging and difficult for them to listen to someone who is not able to communicate their point clearly and succinctly. Also, if you just keep rambling about something without getting straight to the point, your listeners will just stop paying attention to you. And again, this is bad for the outcome of your negotiations. In this case, the fact that you may even be very knowledgeable about what you are speaking, will not matter.
One more final piece of advice in this section: keep in mind that talking in circles can also undermine people’s trust in you. If people see that you are refraining from being clear, then they may think that you are trying to hide something from them.
“The human body is the best picture of the human soul.” –Ludwig Wittgenstein
When people communicate, they use not only words. They also use their gestures. For example, when they talk, they move their hands, change the tone of their voice, nod or shake their heads and so on. All these movements and gestures can reinforce the message you are trying to convey to your interlocutors.
When interacting and negotiating with other be aware that your gestures and movements matter too and, in fact, they may even have a greater impact on the outcome of your negotiations than your words.
Maintain good eye contact. If you fail to do so then your interlocutor may think that you are not interested in the matter you are both discussing or, even worse, that you are trying to hide something from them. Also – avoid staring at people – it may make them feel uncomfortable.
Be mindful of how you position your body – if you are standing too close to your interlocutor then the people you are speaking to may interpret it as a sign of aggression. But again, if you are standing too far away from your interlocutor, they may think you don’t want to engage with them.
Remember that body language is crucial when it comes to successful negotiations. When you show others that you are a friendly and caring person, they open to you as well and even let their guard down, which will benefit the outcomes of negotiations for you.
“We learned about honesty and integrity – that the truth matters… that you don’t take shortcuts or play by your own set of rules… and success doesn’t count unless you earn it fair and square.” – Michelle Obama
Honesty is crucial for any type of communication, including negotiations. If you are not honest with people – be it your boss or your clients, it may significantly hurt your relationship with them. And if they find out that you have been dishonest with them, it will be difficult for you to get their trust back. Your reputation will also be ruined.
When you start your professional life, I can guarantee you that you will have situations at work where you will need to negotiate. And if you are not confident in your negotiating skills, it is time to do something about it. In this article, we have discussed the most important skills that every negotiation should have. Have a look at each of them and think: do I need to work on it? If your answer is yes, then think about how you can improve it. There are many articles on our Shiminly blog that contain a lot of useful advice that also applies to improving negotiating skills.
Russ Gadzhiev obtained his PhD in history and politics from University of Melbourne. He also holds a master’s degree in International Relations from Moscow State University of International Relations, a top-ranking diplomatic school. Russ is a strong education professional with a history of working in the higher education sector of Australia and effectively communicates with learners from diverse cultural backgrounds. He is enthusiastic about teaching and mentoring, writing, curriculum development, research, information management and public speaking. He is fluent in Russian, English, Spanish and Portuguese.