How To Improve Your Reputation As A Negotiator

During a negotiation, cultivate a cooperative reputation to guide your opponent's negotiation strategies
During a negotiation, cultivate a cooperative reputation to guide your opponent’s negotiation strategies

Image Credit: Adam Baker

The next time that you enter into a negotiation, how do you want the other side to view you? If you are like most of us who have had our impression of what a world-class negotiator looks like shaped by television and the movies: when we use our negotiation styles and negotiating techniques we want to come across as being a tough guy, unyielding and bound to get our way no matter what. However, what researchers have discovered is that negotiators with a reputation for collaboration rather than competition tend to do better. You can’t fully control what others think and say about you, none of us can, but you can find ways to seize opportunities to appear as cooperative as possible during and after a business negotiation. Here’s how to do this.

Start A Negotiation By Building Trust By Granting Early, Small Wins

It turns out that negotiation is all about trust. The problem that we have as negotiators is that when a negotiation is first starting, there is a very good chance that the other side does not trust us. We need them to develop a sense of trust with us because if we can get them to trust us then they will feel more comfortable sharing information with us about what they both want and need to get out of the negotiation.

The way that you can start to build trust with the other side is by allowing them to achieve a series of small wins early on in the negotiation. This can be a big factor in creating a climate of cooperation and trust. Other ways you can make the same thing happen is by allowing the other side to choose where a negotiation will take place. Allowing the other side to control the agenda for the negotiation can help to build trust and this will provide the other side with the feeling that they are making progress in the negotiation.

Take Time To Communicate Your Interests

A cornerstone of negotiating is how you communicate. The other side is going to be watching you very carefully as the negotiation starts. What you need to do is to share with them what your interests in this negotiation are and what your priorities will be. Your goal here is going to be to demonstrate a cooperative spirit and promote the creation of mutually beneficial deals. If you share key information with the other side, then they’ll have a better understanding of just exactly where you stand and what the limits of this negotiation are.

What we need to realize is that before we have been able to create a sense of trust between us and the other side we are going to be prevented from fully communicating with each other. We won’t be able to talk candidly about the issues that are on the table. If you take the initiative and reveal some information to the other side, then you can start to build the trust that the negotiation is going to need. Something else to consider is that when you reveal something to the other side, reciprocity can kick in and they may then reveal information to you. By doing this you’ll be able to start to develop a reputation as a negotiator who is cooperative.

During The Negotiation Be Sure To Focus On “How” As Well As “What”

In the movies that we’ve watched that had negotiators in them, there always seems to be a lot of yelling and pounding on the table during a negotiation. What we need to understand is that during a negotiation, how we choose to deliver our messages to the other side can matter as much as what the actual message is. Studies have shown that even when we have to communicate unpleasant information it can be received well if we communicate it to the other side in a way that seems fair to them.

Treating someone with politeness, respect, and honesty can give them a sense of being treated fairly. During a negotiation, if you take the time to address the other side’s issues then this will show them that you respect them. The good news for you is that the quality of the deal that you’re going to be able to reach with the other side will increase if you can find ways to leave them feeling more confident and comfortable. In order to be seen as a cooperative partner when it comes time to negotiate, you are going to want to find ways to shift the discussion from adversarial bargaining to joint problem solving.

What All Of This Means For You

In the world of negotiating, our reputations mean everything. As a negotiator you always need to be looking for ways to improve your reputation. We may see tough guy negotiators in movies but studies have shown that the most effective negotiators are the ones who have a reputation for collaboration. How can we get a reputation like this?

One thing that we can do when a principled negotiation is starting is to allow the other side to have a series of small wins. By doing this we will start to build a sense of trust with them and this will help things to go more smoothly. Next, you are going to want to open up and share with them what you’d like to be able to get out of the negotiations. By doing this, they will start to trust you more and will potentially open up to you also. We need to remember that how we communicate with the other side is just as important as what we are telling them. Treating them with politeness and respect will allow us to strike better deals with them.

The great things about reputations is that they are something that we are in control of. In negotiating, having a reputation as a cooperative negotiator can go a long way in helping you to get the type of deal that you are looking for. Share, communicate, and treat the other side with respect and you can develop a reputation that will allow you to get the best deals.

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

Question For You: If you have a reputation for being an aggressive negotiator, what would be the best way to change this?

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