Negotiations are crucial in every business. Whether you’re running a company or seeking funding for your startup, the ability to reach an agreement is essential for success.
Many people feel uncomfortable during negotiations and conflict. As a result, they default to remaining silent, agreeing to unfavourable terms, or responding aggressively. However, with the right negotiation mindset and skills, we can improve our responses to these situations, resulting in increased confidence and more agreeable solutions. Here are the seven pillars of negotiating wisdom…
In every negotiation, there are a number of elements that you cannot control or predict. For example, you don’t know how your counterpart will show up, their mental state, or their reaction to what you say. You will always need to adapt and be agile on a negotiation table, and the first step in this is going in prepared.
There are three levels of preparation to consider:
Prepare yourself: In every negotiation, you need to deal with yourself first. Work on developing self-awareness to assess your physical, mental and emotional state and the ability to remain calm in stressful situations.
Prepare for the situation: Analyze the market and think of possible outcomes and viewpoints that may come up.
Prepare for your counterpart(s): Research who they are, whom they know, what they value – and what potential common ground could be found.
2. Know Your Needs
Many people start a negotiation without even knowing what they truly need. This is dangerous because your ego can take over and ruin deals and relationships. Knowing your needs makes it easier to define your non-negotiables and your ideal outcome. Now that you have specified your negotiation playing field, be prepared to walk away if your non-negotiables aren’t respected.
3. Build a Bond
Before diving headfirst into the negotiation, start by building a bond. Reach out to your counterpart in a friendly way, show genuine interest in people, and start a conversation about anything but the conflict situation. Building rapport will help establish trust that will continue into the negotiation.
4. Negotiate the Negotiation
This crucial step is often overlooked, resulting in wasting time and creating unnecessary stress. Before starting a negotiation, ensure everybody is clear on the purpose, timing, location, participants, and deadline. Some deals that can be finalized within weeks go on for months or even years, simply because these steps hadn’t been agreed upon in the beginning.
When we talk, we repeat what we already know. But when we listen, we gain new information. Remember, the goal of a negotiation is to turn a disagreement into an agreement. The only way to reach an agreement is to understand what your counterpart needs and is willing to agree on. Listening allows us to discover what that is. Create a space for your counterpart to open up and share information with you. Ask good questions and be attentive to everything. Actively listen to what is being said and how it’s being said. Be genuinely curious and willing to understand what truly matters to everyone involved. This might seem simple, but it takes focus, empathy, and well-developed listening skills.
6. Have a Win-Win Mindset
You might think a win-win outcome means cutting the pie in half, making concessions, or accepting things that you don’t want – but that is a win-lose. A true win-win mindset in negotiation means aiming to reach an agreement that satisfies the needs of all parties, where everyone feels respected and heard. When we walk away satisfied with what we said, how we said it and what we agreed upon, it increases the chances of actually implementing the terms of the final agreement.
Often, people work hard to come to an agreement, only to see that it is not being implemented. Take our world leaders’ peace or climate talks – they are the perfect example of how an agreement without action is worthless.
Remember that in every conversation, your reputation is at stake. You don’t want to be known as the negotiator who always tries to have the last word or the last dollar. Think long-term and let your counterpart leave the table satisfied, wanting to negotiate with you again in the future.
7. Aim to Become a Better Negotiator Continuously
Negotiation is a complex art and science. It’s not about knowing tricks to negotiate better; it’s about becoming a better negotiator. That means, wherever you are, whatever you negotiate, whomever you’re negotiating with, you do it with integrity and respect. From a business deal to a suicide negotiation to resolving conflict with your spouse or children. Becoming a better negotiator continuously takes humility to realize that we can always improve ourselves. We are never done learning.
I’m passionate about helping people become better negotiators. I truly believe we make the world a better place when we resolve conflict through negotiation. We build stronger relationships. We stand up for what we believe in. With the right balance of empathy and assertiveness, we come to agreements that benefit everyone.
Imagine a world where everyone had strong negotiation skills: empathy, listening skills, a true win-win mindset, confidence, and respect. We would come to agreements faster, with less stress. We owe it to ourselves and everyone around us to develop ourselves into better humans – and thus better negotiators – who resolve conflict peacefully.
Selected as one of the most influential negotiation professionals globally, Lousin Mehrabi actively shares negotiation insights on LinkedIn and YouTube. In her podcast ‘Life Negotiations’, she hosts some of the world’s best negotiators, from academics to FBI negotiators, on resolving conflict through negotiation.