No matter how good of a negotiator you think that you currently are and what negotiation styles and negotiating techniques you use, we all know that we can become better. The struggle that we all have is that too often we don’t know how we can become better. Since we don’t know this, we can delay finding out what we need to do. The good news is that we all have to do basically the same things in order to become better negotiators. Now we just need to make sure that we all understand what those things are.
Always Be Prepared
The short answer is that every negotiator knows that before stepping into their next negotiation they need to have taken the time to adequately prepare themselves. However, all too often we just don’t do this. As you can well imagine, this is a big problem for us. 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 important talks. To do this, you might have to set aside a set number of hours every day to do your research and homework, creating a negotiation checklist of tasks to complete, enlisting a negotiation coach to help you, and role-playing the negotiation with a trusted friend or colleague. While you are doing your negotiation research you will need to determine your best alternative to a negotiated agreement, or BATNA (what you will do if the current negotiation fails). At the same time you need to determine the other side’s BATNA, as well.
Get The Negotiation Training That You Need
If you decide that the way that you want to become a better negotiator is by getting some training, then you need to make sure that you go about doing this the correct way. The one thing that you don’t want to do is to sit in a room and take notes. That’s not going to do anyone any good. You need to think about how these concepts relate to your own negotiations. How do the theories presented apply to your practice? If you’re not following the real-world implications of an idea, ask the instructor for clarification or a concrete example.
You need to listen carefully for repetition of concepts across the entire program. Negotiators learn better when we have the opportunity to abstract similar lessons from two or more experiences. For this reason, the best students perk up when concepts are presented more than once—and are more likely than others to retain this information over time.
Understand That Negotiators Make Mistakes
I’m sorry to have to remind you about this one – none of us are perfect. We all make mistakes and that’s why negotiating is such a humbling experience for all of us. All of us will feel threatened and defensive when we recognize that we have been making decisions based on faulty intuition. The good news is that such behavior does not reflect a personal shortcoming. Instructors tell us that feeling uncomfortable with elements of our behavior is a necessary step on the journey to improving your negotiation skills. When you can accept that all of us are susceptible to judgment biases that color our decisions during a negotiation, you will be in a good position to adopt better patterns of thinking that you can apply to your own negotiations.
You Can Never Practice Too Much
As negotiators we always want to be changing the way that we think. We want to find ways to develop new ideas into strategies that become intuitive during a negotiation. However, this requires both practice and time. Negotiation training and study allows negotiators to practice 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. We need to think about which concepts we would like to apply most assiduously to our negotiations and actively practice them. Try out new negotiation skills and strategies with friends and family, who are more likely to be forgiving of your mistakes. If you use your new strategies in multiple applications, they will slowly become second nature, over time they will take the place of old patterns.
We All Need A Good Coach
As good of a negotiator as you may be, there is always someone who is better than you are. You’d like to be able to find this person and get them to teach you what they know. Instead of simply telling you what to do in a particular situation, effective negotiation coaches focus on improving your negotiation skills. Such negotiators are well versed in the theory of negotiation and that allows them to explain and predict what will and won’t work.
When you are looking for a negotiating coach, you need to look for a coach who can help you set goals, figure out what techniques to try, and understand what happened after the fact. A good negotiation coach (1) offers advice that’s consistent with their own personal negotiation behavior, (2) stresses the importance of preparation for a negotiation, (3) rehearses new negotiation skills with you, and (4) debriefs the final results with you.
What All Of This Means For You
We all like to think of ourselves as being good negotiators. Even as good as we are, we also all realize that we could become better. The challenge that a lot of us are facing is that we simply don’t know what we need to be doing in order to become better. It turns out that all of us should be doing the same things. What we need to be doing are making the following 5 changes.
It really should go without having to be said, but when you go into your next principled negotiation you need to make sure that you have taken the time to get prepared. If you don’t then you won’t be able to reach the deal that you want and the other side will come out ahead. All of us can use additional negotiation training and so spending some time in a classroom is always a good idea. Make sure that you use your time there well – don’t just take notes, pay attention and ask good questions. As negotiators we need to understand that all negotiators make mistakes. We all need to learn to deal with this realization. The key to getting the deal that you want out of your next negotiation is knowing how to practice and then doing it. In order to become better than we are, we need someone to show us the way and that’s why getting a good coach can be a critical part of how we become better.
The ultimate goal of every negotiator is to find ways to become better. We know how good we are today and yet we all have a picture of the future in which we are so much better. Knowing that we want to be better is one thing, knowing how we are going to become better is something completely different. The key is knowing what steps we can take as negotiators in order to move to the next level. The five actions that we’ve described can allow us to become better negotiators. Spend some time taking these actions and then watch as your next negotiation goes smoother than you could have ever imagined!
– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Negotiating Skills™
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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time
As negotiators, every time that we go into a negotiation, we are optimistic that we are going to use our negotiation styles and negotiating techniques to be successful. We believe that we’re going to be able to work with the other side of the table and come up with a deal that both sides can live with. This kind of optimism is important to providing us with the drive to keep moving forward even when things can get tough. However, we all understand that sometimes negotiations don’t work out. There have been some pretty spectacular failures. From a negotiator point of view, these failures can teach us a great deal about how to make sure that our next negotiation is a success.