5 Ways To Become A Better Negotiator

Learn how to get better negotiation results
Learn how to get better negotiation results
Image Credit: CLS Research Office

As negotiators, we all share the same desire – we’d like to find ways to become better negotiators. However, the prospect of finding a way to make this happen and learn new negotiation styles and negotiating techniques can be very overwhelming and this can cause us to throw our arms up and say that it simply can’t be done. However, the good news is that there are a set of manageable strategies that we can all use in order to become better than we are today.

It’s All About Preparation.

Every negotiator knows that we’re supposed to prepare thoroughly to negotiate, but all too often fail to follow through on our best intentions. This is a significant problem: research shows that underprepared negotiators make unnecessary concessions, overlook sources of value, and walk away from beneficial agreements.

The single most valuable step you could take to improve your negotiation skills is to prepare thoroughly for your next negotiation. That means setting aside a set number of hours every day to do your research and homework, creating a negotiation checklist of tasks to complete, and role-playing the negotiation with a trusted friend, colleague, or family member. As part of your negotiation research, take time to determine your best alternative to a negotiated agreement, or BATNA (what you will do if the current negotiation falls through), and do your best to determine the other side’s BATNA also.

Get Proactive When It Comes To Negotiating Training

Training is one way to become a better negotiator. However, we have to go about doing this in the right way. If you decide to improve your negotiation skills through a formal training program, avoid the pitfall of passively recording the key points made by your instructor. Move beyond note taking and think about how these concepts relate to your own negotiations. How do the theories presented in class apply to your negotiations?

If you’re not following the real-world implications of an idea, ask for clarification or a concrete example. In addition, negotiation students should listen carefully for repetition of concepts across the entire program. Studies show that we learn better when we have the opportunity to abstract similar lessons from two or more experiences. Students perk up when concepts are presented more than once—and are more likely to retain this information over time.

Everyone Makes Mistakes

I don’t like to make mistakes when I am negotiating. Nobody does. We need to realize that negotiation training can be a humbling experience. Teachers often have their students participate in role-playing simulations that have been designed at least in part to expose flaws in their thinking. An example of this would be the tendency to be overconfident.

We often feel threatened and defensive when we recognize that they have been making decisions based on faulty intuition. This kind of behavior does not reflect a personal shortcoming. This feeling of being uncomfortable with elements of our behavior is a necessary step on the journey to improving our negotiation skills. When you can accept that all of us are susceptible to judgment biases that color our decisions in negotiation, you will be in a good position to adopt better patterns of thinking that you can apply to your own negotiations.

It’s All About How Much You Practice

I know that I don’t have to tell you this one. In order for us to develop new ideas into strategies that become intuitive requires practice and time. Negotiation training and study allows us to practice new concepts, but the process of change is not complete when our training ends. As we prepare to transfer newly acquired negotiation skills to the workplace, we need to maintain a sense of vigilance. Take time to reflect on what you have learned. Think about which concepts you would like to apply carefully to your negotiations and actively practice them, both at work and at home. First try out new negotiation skills and strategies with friends and family, who are likely to be forgiving of your mistakes.

Everyone Needs A Good Negotiation Coach

We have to realize that when we want to become better, this is not a journey that we have to take by ourselves. When you’re getting ready for an important negotiation, chances are, there’s someone in your organization who you can turn to for good advice. Rather than simply telling you what to do in a particular situation, negotiation coaches focus on helping you to improve your negotiation skills.

Such negotiators are well versed in an explicit theory of negotiation that allows them to explain and predict what will and won’t work. What you are going to want to do is to look for a negotiation coach who can help you figure out what techniques to try, set goals, and understand what happened after the fact. A good negotiation coach can offer you four things: (1) they offer advice that’s consistent with their own negotiation behavior, (2) they stress the importance of preparation, (3) they help you to rehearse new negotiation skills, and (4) they debrief the final results.

What All Of This Means For You

Every negotiator wants to become better. Wanting to become better and knowing how to make this happen it turns out are two completely different things. The good news is that there are manageable strategies that we can follow that will allow us to develop and improve our negotiating abilities. It should almost go without saying that if you want to become a better negotiator, you need to take the time to fully prepare for your next negotiation. Take the time to prepare and find people who will be willing to work with you and allow you to practice your negotiating. Getting training is another way to become a better negotiator. Take care to not sit in class and just take notes. Instead, apply what you are learning to your negotiating experiences. Understand that everyone makes mistakes during a principled negotiation. Our training of often designed to cause us to make mistakes so that we can learn from them. In order to become a better negotiator, we need to take the time to practice our negotiating skills. This is not something that we have to do by ourselves. We can get a coach and they can help us.

Becoming better is what negotiating is all about. We’d like to be better every time that we go into a negotiation. What we need is ways to make this happen. The strategies that we’ve discussed are ways that we can take what we already know about negotiating and use it to improve our skills. If we make the effort, then we can become the negotiators that we know that we can be.

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

Question For You: Just how much practice do you think that it takes to be properly prepared for a negotiation?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

Every negotiator knows that they can only be as good as the team that they have backing them up. In order to have the best team possible, we need to find ways to increase the odds that our team has the training and the skills that will be required in order use their negotiation styles and negotiating techniques to make our next negotiation successful. This all leads to the question: what skills do our negotiating teams need to have?