How to Think Like a Successful Negotiator

To be successful in business and in life, a person should have some knowledge of negotiation. More specifically, a person should know how to think like a negotiator. This does not mean looking for how to spin any situation to your advantage. Many businessmen hurt their cause by thinking only of their own desires and goals when going into negotiation situations.

Successful people in modern times tend to wear a constant mask of confidence, going into every conversation with a self-assured attitude and fully expecting to get whatever they want. While confidence is an admirable trait, and one that is respected in business situations, it must be tempered to be truly effective. A person’s success in negotiation, like everything else in life, relies upon balance.

The best negotiators have a wide variety of traits they use in concert to make the best deals. They work to find mutually beneficial solutions that allow for collaboration in the future. Three traits and attitudes that are universally held by great negotiators are:

Confidence: Confidence is important for earning the respect of your co-negotiators. At a negotiation, both sides want to appear in control. Being confident in yourself and knowing what you want is the best way to show your mastery of a situation.

However, confidence that is not balanced with other traits can quickly become arrogance. Arrogant people make few real friends and earn little respect from those they deal with. If they are proven wrong, their arrogance is shown to be unfounded and even less palatable than when it appears to be born of continued success.

Humility: Confidence is most effective at the negotiation table when it is tempered with humility. All great leaders have had confident humility; the ability to know they are right and an expectation of success balanced with kindness to those around them, as well as not seeking to place themselves above their comrades. 

Humility is not highly prized at the negotiation table, often being perceived as weakness. True humility, however, means recognizing you may be incorrect and in need of another’s guidance to become successful. People with confident humility do not gloat in their success, but treat their co-negotiator with respect at all times so that he or she will return to the negotiation table in the future.

Big Picture Understanding: Lesser negotiators become too focused on the deal at hand, looking only to achieve their goals and not considering anything else. The best negotiators know that to be successful one must fully understand a situation; the goals of one’s opponent, the overarching goals of one’s own company, the current economic climate, and more. Doing thorough research on any and all information that might be relevant to your negotiation often gives the best results. Incomplete understanding leads to weaker negotiations.

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