Effective communication can be hard to achieve, and for many it takes lots of practice. Active listening is one of the key components of communication, especially in negotiations. To make the most of a negotiation, you must understand every party’s wants and needs. Here are some simple tips for becoming a better listener and improving your communication skills:
Show Genuine Interest.
Everyone comes into a negotiation wanting something. It can be hard to show a genuine interest in another party’s needs, especially when you’re focused on getting what you want out of an interaction. However, in order for a negotiation to run smoothly, you must show an interest in how the other party is feeling. You can achieve this by emotion-labeling (i.e., acknowledging the other party’s emotions as they experience them) and paraphrasing their thoughts. This shows that you’re committed to a resolution that benefits them, as well as yourself.
Ask Probing Questions.
Using open-ended questions helps the active listening process by understanding a client’s needs and wants. It also encourages the client to speak longer, which provides more insight and perspective into their side of the negotiation. This better positions you to effectively respond to their needs, while still getting what you want.
You can also facilitate this process by using “minimal encouragers.” These are statements like “okay,” “I see,” and “Go on.” While they may not seem like much, they go a long way in establishing a rapport, and it encourages the other party to keep speaking.
Summarizing has a couple of different benefits. First, it wraps up everything the person said, which shows that you’ve been listening and acknowledges their wants and needs. This helps provide validation to your client. Secondly, it provides a “stalling” tactic as you formulate your response. It buys you extra time and helps you counter, beginning the process of negotiation.
Research shows that people spend 60% of a conversation speaking about themselves. This isn’t altogether surprising, as it’s a subject in which we’re comfortable. However, it doesn’t help you much in a negotiation, since you end up talking about what you want, instead of understanding your client’s needs and wants.
By letting your client talk about their needs and wants, you motivate them and provide them with encouragement. Active listening, once you achieve it, helps your client gain a positive impression of both you and your company. By practicing good listening techniques, you can become a more successful negotiator.