Part of personal development and of creating a life you are ecstatic with – and that’s always our goal! – is learning to get what you want.
Negotiating, like sales, is a skill we all use to some extent every day. We may think of these as skills or tactics used only by business people or salespeople, but in nearly every interaction there is some of one or both required. For instance, every time you see your boss and have a casual conversation you are performing a little salesmanship, trying to put forth a certain image and impression. Every time you talk with your kids about something that needs to be done – going to bed, doing their homework, etc. – you are negotiating. Your style of negotiating may be dictatorial or it may be wishy-washy, but you are still negotiating. You may even do a little selling there too (‘if you do x, Mommy will do y’)!
While in truth negotiating skills are gained and refined over a lifetime, and the possible tactics would (and do) take up many books’ worth of pages, there are certain basics we can cover here. Following are some of the more important keys to successful negotiating – those which leave you with a) what you want, b) happiness, satisfaction and integrity.
One major concept in negotiating is win/win. As author Stephen Covey tells us in his classic book ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,’ ‘Win/win is not a technique; it’s a total philosophy of human interaction.’ Wanting everyone to ‘win’ at the negotiation table means thinking in terms of higher solutions. It’s not selfish and not unselfish – it’s holistic. It means creating solutions which work in everyone’s best interest – no caving in for anyone and no walking away feeling used or abused. Many, many people fall to one side or the other because of self-esteem or other issues. For instance, many people either get bossy or manipulative in relationships to get their way, while others allow things to happen that are not good for them because they don’t have the nerve or the confidence to speak up. This happens of course not just in personal relationships but those of all sorts – interactions with people at work, people trying to sell or convince us of something and more.
Another important caveat is to know your desired outcome and what you will and will not be flexible about. This means being clear about you want before you begin discussions, and at the same remaining open for optimum, alternate solutions. All good negotiations require openness and give and take, and you must be prepared to make some concessions, or ideally to propose new solutions where no one has to make concessions. If everyone is working on genuinely creative and positive solutions, often new, unexpected outcomes will occur that are even better than anticipated. As mentioned, however, be clear about what you are after going in, and don’t be willing to settle for less; different and possibly better, yes – less, NO.
One last tip is to know as much as you can about the ‘other’ side before beginning. Try and learn what you can about the person or party with whom you’ll be negotiating so you can empathize with what their concerns are. Understanding the perspective of the other party also helps you handle emotional reactions on both sides with care and more patience than you otherwise would. There may be something of deep concern to them that, if addressed, could make everything go smoothly. This issue may not even be a big deal for you at all, but knowing that it is to them can make all the difference in how you approach things – it may even save the day!