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October 1, 2014

What Makes a Good Negotiator

Business

Jeff Cochran

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Communication skills can be learned and are often part of effective negotiation training. However, there are some people who are inherently more skilled negotiators than others. Most excellent speakers had the following characteristics from the get-go before they were trained in negotiation:

  • Quick thinking. Being able to think on one’s feet is essential to being a strong negotiator. Negotiating can be stressful, and sometimes requires making big decisions quickly. Strong negotiators can absorb new information and decide the best course of action immediately.
  • Intelligence. It’s no surprise that negotiating requires some smarts. Business negotiators must assess their needs and the needs of others, coming up with compromises that benefit everyone’s interests – often on the fly.
  • Confidence. Negotiation requires asserting one’s will. Many negotiations fail before they begin because the negotiator feels they don’t deserve what they’re asking for. Strong negotiators project their confidence and strong will throughout the conversation. This has an effect on their opponent. Without realizing it, they will begin to see the other’s point of view.
  • Ability to anticipate others. A successful negotiation requires strong listening skills. However, equally important is the capacity to anticipate other’s needs before they express them. With knowledge of their opponent’s wishes, a negotiator can manipulate the conversation so they make fewer concessions, but their opponent still feels they came out on top.
  • Compassion and people skills. Negotiating is a social skill. The ability to connect with others is essential to being a good negotiator. Knowing what others are likely to want and how they will react to things means a good negotiator can easily manage an interaction.
  • Making things sound good. A good negotiator goes into a conversation willing to make concessions. However, while they may be willing to make large concessions, the goal of the negotiation is to make as few concessions as possible. A strong negotiator makes small concessions sound bigger than they are. This isn’t about lying; lying will ruin an honest negotiation. Rather, it’s about presenting things in a light that is beneficial to the negotiator.
  • Knowledge of how much to let on. Negotiation is all about presenting the facts in a way that is convincing. Giving away too much information leaves one vulnerable; being too tight-lipped come across as cold, which doesn’t have a good effect on the negotiation.

A strong negotiator is personable, but strong willed. They listen well to words, but pay attention to subtext and body language. Great negotiators must train to maximize their abilities. However, the social intelligence they hone is innate.

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