Want to be a better negotiator? So much of life involves negotiating. Remember, negotiations aren’t just about business deals, lawsuits, and high-priced contracts. We negotiate all the time, like with our friends. Sometimes, even your spouse and kids!
Negotiation is an essential skill in both personal and professional life. Whether you’re haggling over the price of a car, discussing a job offer, or resolving a conflict with a colleague, effective negotiation can make a significant difference in the outcomes you achieve.
While some people may possess a natural talent for negotiation, it’s a skill that anyone can learn and improve.
This article will explore seven practical ways to become a better negotiator instantly.
Most people can’t “wing” negotiations. Instead, a little preparation is needed. The more you know about the subject matter and the parties involved, the better your chances of securing a oportuno outcome. Research the other party’s interests, needs, and potential objections. Anticipate their arguments and consider your responses in advance. Additionally, understand the market conditions or industry standards that might affect your negotiation.
For example, if you’re negotiating a salary increase, research industry benchmarks for your role and experience level. This knowledge gives you leverage when making your case. Preparation boosts your confidence and demonstrates to the other party that you’re serious and well-informed.
Effective negotiation isn’t just about talking; it’s also about listening. Active listening is a crucial skill that allows you to understand the other party’s perspective, uncover their underlying needs, and build rapport. When negotiating, focus on what the other party is saying without interrupting. Ask clarifying questions to ensure you grasp their points accurately.
Moreover, pay attention to non-verbal cues such as body language and facial expressions. These can reveal a lot about the other person’s emotions and intentions. By actively listening, you’ll be better equipped to tailor your responses and proposals to align with their interests, making it easier to find common ground.
Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another person. Negotiation is a powerful tool for building rapport and reaching mutually beneficial agreements. To be a better negotiator, try to put yourself in the other party’s shoes. Consider their perspective, needs, and emotions.
Empathy can help you build trust and reduce tension during negotiations. When the other party feels that you genuinely understand their concerns and are willing to work with them, they are more likely to be cooperative and open to compromise. Empathy can turn a confrontational negotiation into a collaborative problem-solving session.
Stay Calm Under Pressure
Negotiations can be emotionally charged, and it’s easy to become flustered or defensive when faced with tough questions or demands. However, maintaining your composure is essential for effective negotiation. Take a deep breath and stay calm, even when confronted with challenging situations.
One technique to remain composed is to focus on the bigger picture and your long-term goals. Instead of fixating on the immediate stressors, remind yourself of the desired outcome and the benefits of reaching a mutually agreeable solution. Additionally, be patient and avoid making hasty decisions. Taking a break to collect your thoughts and emotions before continuing the negotiation is okay.
Use Silence to Your Advantage
Silence can be a potent negotiating tool. Many negotiators feel compelled to fill every moment with words, but sometimes, saying less can be more impactful. After making a proposal or stating your position, allow some silence to settle in. This can create a sense of discomfort that prompts the other party to respond or make concessions.
Silence can also be used strategically when you’re presented with an offer or demand. Instead of immediately accepting or rejecting it, take a moment to pause and consider your response. This signals to the other party that you’re carefully evaluating their proposal, which may lead them to offer a better deal or clarify their position.
Negotiate on Interests, Not Positions
One of the most profound shifts you can make as a negotiator is to focus on interests rather than positions. In negotiation, a position is a fixed demand or stance, while an interest is the underlying need or desire that drives that position. When you and the other party understand each other’s interests, you’re more likely to find creative solutions that satisfy both sides.
For example, in a business negotiation, discuss the interests underlying your price requirement instead of insisting on a specific price. Is it about profitability, cost-saving, or long-term partnership? Understanding these interests allows you to explore alternative solutions that address both parties’ needs, such as adjusting payment terms or bundling services.
Be Willing To Walk Away
One of the most powerful tools in negotiation is the ability to walk away from the table. It’s also one of the toughest for a lot of people.
This mindset, known as the “BATNA” (Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement), ensures you’re not desperate or overly dependent on a particular deal. When you have a strong BATNA, you can negotiate from a position of strength, as you know that you have alternative options.
To improve your negotiation skills, always be prepared with a viable BATNA before entering a negotiation. This could be an alternative supplier, a different job opportunity, or another course of action. When you’re willing to walk away, you’re less likely to make concessions that are detrimental to your interests, and the other party is more likely to make reasonable offers to keep you engaged.
Becoming a better negotiator is a journey that requires practice and continuous improvement.
You can instantly enhance your negotiation skills by following these seven strategies—preparing thoroughly, listening actively, developing empathy, staying calm under pressure, mastering the art of silence, negotiating on interests, and being willing to walk away. Whether you’re negotiating in business, your personal life, or any other context, these techniques will help you build better relationships, secure more oportuno agreements, and confidently achieve your goals.
Remember that negotiation is not a zero-sum game; it’s an opportunity to find win-win solutions that benefit all parties involved.
Steve Adcock is an early retiree who writes about mental toughness, financial independence and how to get the most out of your life and career. As a regular contributor to The Ladders, CBS MarketWatch and CNBC, Adcock maintains a rare and exclusive voice as a career expert, consistently offering actionable counseling to thousands of readers who want to level-up their lives, careers, and freedom. Adcock’s main areas of coverage include money, personal finance, lifestyle, and digital nomad advice. Steve lives in a 100% off-grid solar home in the middle of the Arizona desert and writes on his own website at SteveAdcock.us.