5 Ways To Become A Better Negotiator

Negotiators should always be working to become better
Negotiators should always be working to become better
Image Credit: Pat Guiney

Congratulations – you are a negotiator! This is an impressive accomplishment. However, now you are facing the question of what’s next? We would all like to become better negotiators and boost our negotiation styles and negotiating techniques; however, often we find ourselves unsure of how we can make this happen. The good news is that being a negotiator means that you’ve mastered a large set of skills. In order to become a better negotiator, you simply have to identify additional key skills and master those also. Let’s take a look at what you still have to learn.

Show Up Excited

Let’s face it – negotiating can be a stressful process. What this means for us as negotiators is that we are undoubtedly going to feel stressed and nervous. There is very little that we can do about this – our hearts are going to beat faster and our palms are going to sweat. The challenge that we are facing is that when we feel this way, this may cause us to end up making costly decisions during a negotiation. A much better way of dealing with this is to change the way that you mentally think about what is going on. What may come across as nerves can be reframed as excitement. Picture yourself as being excited to start your next negotiation and all of sudden everything else will simply become a result of your level of excitement. Feeling this way will make you a better negotiator.

Get A Draft Agreement

What you’d like to do during a negotiation is to have some influence over the other side and the direction that the negotiation is going in. What you are going to want to do is to find a way to “anchor” the negotiations by being the one to make a first offer. This will allow you to guide the negotiations in the direction that you want them to go. The best way to make this happen is to present the other side with a draft agreement. No, this draft may not be able to stand the test of time and may end up getting discarded, but you will have increased your influence over how the negotiation turns out. Your draft allows you to anchor the negotiation and may end up saving both sides considerable time and effort.

Use Silence To Your Advantage

As negotiators one thing that we do a lot of is talking. However, what a lot of us don’t realize is that there can be great power in silence. During a negotiation, any time a silence arises, we will often rush in with our counter-arguments and persuasion techniques and try to fill it. We need to understand that silence is really our friend. Once the other side is done speaking, hold your tongue. Use the ensuing silence to take in what they have just told you. Use the silence to hold back your tendency to attempt to boost your side of the story and use this time to listen to what the other side is really trying to tell you.

Don’t Be Afraid To Ask For Advice

Something that none of us may have ever considered doing is asking the other side of the table for advice during a negotiation. We view doing something like this as being something that will show weakness on our part or that we are inexperienced. However, it turns out that this is not the case. Instead, studies have shown that the other side will view us as being more competent than negotiating partners who didn’t ask for advice. By asking the other side for their advice, you flatter them and we end up boosting their self-confidence. Asking the other side for their advice will provide you with good information and may make your relationship with them stronger.

Use The Power Of Final-Offer Arbitration

There will be times that we are negotiating with people who are unhappy and upset with us. In these situations, a lawsuit may be pending if the negotiations are not able to reach an agreeable deal. In these situations, the other side may appear to be unwilling to entertain offers that are reasonable and made in good-faith. This is a rough situation, what’s a negotiator to do? One option that you have is called a final-offer-solution (FOA) . When you go this route, each side submits its best and final offer to an arbitrator, who must select either of the two offers and not any other value. Parties may not appeal the arbitrator’s decision. As you can well imagine, when both sides agree to use an FOA, all of sudden they have an incentive to attempt to impress the arbitrator with just how reasonable they are being. What this means is that both sides should end up submitted reasonable offers that everyone can live with.

What All Of This Means For You

Negotiating is a challenging occupation. Once we become negotiators only then do we realize just how much more we have to learn. Mastering the basics of negotiating is a good start, but then we need to move on and add additional skills to our toolbox.

One of the first things that we need to get good at doing is transforming any nervousness that we are feeling into excitement. By doing this we’ll avoid making bad decisions during our next negotiation. In order to move the negotiation along in the direction that we want it to go, we should show up with a draft agreement that we can present as a first offer. As much as we love to talk, we need to understand the power of silence. Remain quiet after the other side speaks in order to take in what they have shared with you and you may learn a lot. We don’t know everything and so if we ask the other side for advice during a negotiation we’ll flatter them and we may get some good information from them. In the worst case where things are not going well during a negotiation, you can always use the final-offer solution and force the other side to come up with a reasonable offer.

Negotiating is a game in which both sides show up with experience and skills and then attempt to get the best deal for themselves. As negotiators we need to understand that we always need to be learning and acquiring new negotiating skills. This is a good way for us to spend our time. Use the techniques that we’ve covered here in your next principled negotiation and you might be surprised at how it improves the type of deal that you are able to reach with the other side.

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

Question For You: If you have to go to the final-offer solution, do you think that you might still be able to reach an agreement with the other side without the help of an arbitrator?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

So here’s an interesting thought for you: when is a negotiation over and done with? I suspect that most of us would say once the deal has been signed by all parties. It turns out that this is not the case. Instead, reaching a deal with the other side and having that deal signed may just be the start of your negotiations. Are you ready for this?

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