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February 7, 2014

Improve Your Negotiation Skills in Five Steps

Business

Jeff Cochran

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Negotiation plays a role at every level in the world of business, making it a critical skill for all employees to learn. While the basic rules of negotiation: clear communication, good eye contact and body language, and a focus on objectives are typically familiar to most employees – they are, after all, the starter skills for negotiating a raise – more advanced negotiation skills can help get your company to the yes you want to hear. These five skills each address an often overlooked part of the negotiation process that can really affect negotiation outcomes.

1. Be aware of power differentials. One of the biggest challenges for upper-level employees participating in negotiations is to see the position of the person with less power. Being the person with more power in a negotiation does not automatically mean you will get what you want, particularly if you are unable to take the perspective of your negotiating partner. When the person with power takes a step back towards a more equal position, negotiations go more smoothly.

2. Emphasize the needs of the other party. Don’t assume that you know what the other party needs, but do make sure that those needs are communicated clearly and prioritized. Part of emphasizing those needs is listening closely enough to understand the nuances of the other party’s position. Once you know what your negotiating partner needs, it is easier to move forward because the different possible compromises within the negotiation become clear.

3. Avoid forced extroversion. Many people think that the most important characteristic of a powerful negotiator is extroversion, leading some naturally introverted people to put on a show that benefits no one. Rather than acting like someone you’re not, introverted negotiators should draw on the unique skills of their own personality. Additionally, others can usually tell when you are faking extroversion, and when they do, you will appear as untrustworthy.

4. Emphasize thoughts as much as feelings. Because so much of negotiating is focused on taking the perspective of the other person, negotiators can sometimes get caught up in the particular emotions invoked by the process – stress, feeling like you lack power, annoyance, frustration, and so forth. While feelings are important, trying to follow the intellectual logic of the individual you are negotiating with is just as critical. Don’t get so caught up in the emotional side that you lose sight of intellectual insights.

5. Help them get to “yes.” When you show up to a negotiation, make sure you’ve done all the advance groundwork that will make it clear you care about the person or company you are negotiating with. The more you know about their position and what they will need from you to say yes, the easier and more amiable the negotiation process will be. Additionally, by keeping your ears open for the pauses in the negotiation process, you can pinpoint the parts of the process blocking the other party from getting to that all important “yes.”

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