What Are The Attributes Of A Good Negotiator?

What's your negotiator profile?
What’s your negotiator profile?
Image Credit: Anthony Easton

Not everyone is cut out to become a negotiator. There is a certain set of skills that every negotiator needs to have and not everyone has them. Even those of us who find ourselves doing this type of thing for a living realize that there is a certain set of skills along with knowledge of negotiation styles and negotiating techniques that it takes to become a really good negotiator. We need to understand what these skills are and then we need to take the time to develop them. Just exactly what set of attributes does a good negotiator need to have?

It’s All About Communication

A good negotiator is a good communicator. What we need to realize is that during a negotiation, not all of our communication is going to occur with the other side of the table. We need to show that we have a willingness to negotiate effectively with the members of our own organization in order to win their confidence and support for the negotiation that is going to be happening. Any negotiation requires us to communicate to everyone involved that we are willing to make a commitment to the negotiation. We show this by carefully planning our actions, taking the time to understand the product or project being discussed, knowing the rules and the alternatives that are available to us, and having what it will take to probe the other side in order to check out the information that we do have.

The other people involved in a negotiation may not do a good job of communicating with us. This means that as negotiators we need to have good business judgment. No matter what we are being told, we need to be able to discern the real bottom-line issues that the other side wants to discuss with us. During a negotiation not everything will be clear. This is why, as a part of our communication skills, we need to be able to tolerate both conflict and ambiguity. Knowing what we don’t know will allow us to focus our efforts on finding out what we do need to know.

Communication is not something that we just perform with other people. We also have to clearly communicate with ourselves. This means that we need to be able to commit ourselves to higher targets than we may be comfortable with. This also means that we need to be honest with ourselves and be willing to take the risks associated with our higher targets. During a negotiation, the other side may choose to not communicate with us. This means that we need to have the wisdom to be patient. The story will eventually unfold, we just need to be willing to give it the time that it needs.

How You View The Negotiation Matters Also

The next negotiation that you will be involved in will not just be all about you. Instead, you are going to have to be willing to get involved with the other party and their organization. What this means is that you need to understand all the various personal and business issues that the other side brings to the negotiating table. In order to get them to support you, you will need to provide them with a reason to believe that you have a commitment to integrity and mutual satisfaction.

All too often we can find ourselves in situations where we are hearing just what we want to hear. During a negotiation we have to view the negotiation from a much broader perspective. We need to have the ability to listen open mindedly to what the other side has to tell us. During a negotiation, not everything may be visible. This means that when we look at the negotiations we need to take the time to see the hidden personal issues that could end up affecting the outcome of the negotiations.

Your ability to see a whole negotiation rests in part on your self-confidence. If you are able to believe in yourself then you’ll have the ability to bring both the knowledge and the planning that is required to the table during the negotiation. If you can see the big picture of a negotiation, then you will be willing to bring in experts to help out and you’ll have an understanding of how a team can be a valuable thing to have on your side during a negotiation. Knowing how you want the negotiation to turn out means that you have have the ability to laugh at what is going on and you don’t have an overpowering need to be liked – you can disagree with others in order to move the negotiations to where you need them to go.

What All Of This Means For You

Those of us who spend our time, either some of it or all of it, negotiating realize that in order to be a successful negotiator there are a certain set of attributes that we all need to have. The good news is that if we can realize what we need to have, then we can take the time to develop them.

At its core, good negotiating is all about good communication. What this means is that we need to be able to negotiate with our own people in order to get their support for our ideas. We need to plan, know what is being negotiated, and then check the information that we do know. This is coupled with the ability to live with ambiguity and to determine what the other side’s real bottom line issues are. How you view the principled negotiation also matters. You need to be committed to ensuring that the other side walks away feeling satisfied. At the same time you need to be willing to listen to what they are saying with an open mind.

The secret to being a really good negotiator is to realize that it takes a lot of different skills – there is no silver bullet here. What we need to do is to take the time to work on all of the different attributes that a good negotiator needs to have in order to become even better than we are today. No, this is not going to be easy to do, but the results will be well worth the effort.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Negotiating Skills™

Question For You: What is the best way to measure how good of a communicator you are now?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

If you want to have any hope of getting the deal that you are seeking out of your next negotiation, then you’re going to need some information in order to be able to make the right decisions. Yes, you’ll need to do some homework and see what you can find out about the other side and the issue that you’ll be negotiating; however, there will be a great deal of information that only the other side of the table can provide you with. How are you going to get this information?