Negotiation skills are worth millions, in US Dollars and in peace of mind. As a leader and as a professional we negotiate everyday. There are small disputes to be solved, and there are huge projects to be managed. All require great negotiation skills and a passion for effective problem-solving. This is not negotiable.

There is a lot to know about negotiating and there is more to be done to improve negotiating skills even for the most confident negotiators, but his article does not aim that high. I will just focus on five important negotiating skills, hoping that if you don’t have your own method by now, you’ll find this satisfactory.

Establish clear negotiating goals

There is a lot of wisdom behind getting prepared for a negotiation, and there are some quotes that might impress and convince us for a while to pay attention to this step. Truth is we don’t prepare as much as we should. We don’t gather enough information, we don’t consider the other party’s position and we enter sometime in negotiation with unclear or untested goals. Which usually explains why the results are bad.

Every aspect of preparation is useful, but establishing clear negotiation goals is vital. What’s the best possible outcome? You need to know this as soon as possible if you want to have reasonable expectations. What’s your bottom line? When you are ready to leave a negotiation if you don’t get results will make or brake a good deal. You also need a Plan B. Usually it’s enough, but on the strength of this plan depends your attitude in negotiation. Having a good alternative makes one quite strong.

Have a negotiation strategy

Ok. If you prepared well and you have clear negotiation goals, the next important aspect is to establish a negotiation strategy. Know how you start a negotiation, what tactics you plan to use, how you plan to respond, what are the risks and how to manage them and when and how you are ready to walk out if things don’t go well. Also have a plan to manage difficult negotiators and conflicts. This is never easy.

You might be a brilliant negotiation exactly because you have a good strategy even you see this as just your way of doin these sort of things. Truth is that you might count on luck and your great personality but if you don’t have a strategy, at least in complicated negotiations, you are bound to lose. There are simply to many variables to control simultaneously to pay attention to the targets.

Understand and use your negotiation style

First of all don’t build a fame as a negotiator. This will bring you fame, but people will start knowing you and your stile and some counterparts will start say no just because you are the famous negotiators and they feel the need to prove something. Maybe you have a tactic to avoid this also, but why spend so much energy when you can just be the helpful, focused and humble negotiator.

You know better what’s your style of negotiation and you know if you don’t lose control when to push and when to pull. But your counterpart will soon know this especially if you spend enough in a negotiation. So, use your strength without leaving a signature and avoid your weaknesses without leaving a trail for the others to use and attack you. Not everybody is keen to principled negotiation.

Build motivation

You might not have too many arguments for a solution or another, but your counterpart will find enough personal arguments to accept or not a solution. What you can do therefore is to help them find their own arguments by understanding their needs and driving forces. Listen more and ask more questions. You will not convince anybody be repeating the same argument again and again and again. You just get annoying.

So, ask questions without assuming and don’t be afraid to look less informed than you actually are. It helps making connections and it gives you time to prepare for short arguments, that can again look like a set of questions. People like having the right answers. Why not, helping them to find the right answers that sit on a common ground of understanding and on common goals.

Don’t be eager to win

In fact play the reluctant party, be relaxed and show your hope for a positive outcome but clearly indicate that this rests on finding common ground not in winning. The other will spend more energy in building arguments and delivering them with perseverance while you can just wait for them uphill and defend your position with questions based on their arguments while attacking when they are tired with a soft argument.

Well, it’s not a battle, but you get the point. Don’t overuse your arguments and don’t be arrogant. The best logic fades quickly in a conflict, and emotions take place. If you practice and exercise a sort of detachment from the point of contradiction you have the best chances of obtaining good results in all the negotiation, those that are important professionally and those that matter at home.

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