The Effective Negotiator

“In business, you don’t get what you deserve. You get what you negotiate.”

Do you think of yourself as an effective negotiator? Many of us do not, although we have been negotiating all our lives.

Negotiation is not just for lawyers, politicians, diplomats, and heads of state. When we understand what it is, you will see that everyone does it, all the time.

  • Whenever a child asks her parents for ice cream. 
  • Whenever a spouse asks her partner to help out with the household chores. 
  • Whenever a customer asks for a better deal. 
  • Whenever a colleague asks another team member for support.

What do all of these have in common? Each person is seeking to meet their needs by reaching an agreement with another party.

The point in negotiating is to meet your own needs, not necessarily to do better than the other. Most negotiations take place in the context of long-term relationships, as in a marriage. If you are always asking: “Who’s winning this marriage?” the marriage is in serious trouble.”(Roger Fisher)

In all significant relationships, negotiation involves a balance between meeting needs and sustaining relationships. A married couple, for example. A supplier and client. A service provider and his customer.

The effective negotiator…
  •         Thinks and takes the time needed to be ready to negotiate.
  •         Plans, especially knowing his or her own Objective(s), needs, and timetable.
  •         Listens to understand the others in the negotiation, especially their needs and issues.
  •         Seeks solutions that will work for each party.
  •         Separates the people from the problem.
  •         Is patient, stays objective, avoids being drawn into emotion, and is ready to walk away.

“During a negotiation, don’t take anything personally. If you leave personalities out of it, you will be able to see opportunities more objectively. Care, but not that much.”(Herb Cohen)

Using the following ten items, assess your current skill level and confidence as a negotiator. Read the skill descriptions and assess your current level according to the rating scale. Then, identify your strongest areas and circle them. Next, identify the skills that could use the most improvement and answer the Questions for Reflection.

4 - Excellent—I understand and use this skill well enough that I could teach or explain it to someone else.
3 - Competent—I use this skill successfully whenever it is needed in my work.
2 - Developing—I am gaining competence in using this skill, although I am not always sure I have used it successfully.
1 - Learning—I am new to this skill and require help to use it successfully

1 Before entering into a negotiation, I take time to think and plan, focusing on identifying my goals for a successful outcome. _____

2 Before I begin a negotiation, I take the time to think about the needs of my organization that must be met in order for the negotiation to be successful.  _____

3 I know what my initial position in the negotiation will be, and I have thought in advance about concessions I will be willing to make to move toward my goal. _____

4 I use active listening skills to identify and assess the interests of those I am negotiating with and to distinguish between their underlying interests and their initial position in the negotiation. _____

5 I am willing to compromise in a negotiation, if the compromise will lead to a successful negotiation, and I actively look for ways to meet the interests of those I am negotiating with. _____

6 I think creatively about ways to add value for all parties in the negotiation, and I carefully consider others’ suggestions. _____

7 I know what I am willing to give up in order to get my interests met in a negotiation, and if I can’t get my interests met under these conditions, I am willing to walk away from the negotiation. _____

8 I make sure that I have thought about and developed alternatives so that I am not locked into a narrow position. _____

9 To reach a negotiated agreement, I can use my problem solving skills to break through an impasse or to overcome a “No” from the other party. _____

10 After concluding a negotiation, I follow up with the other party to monitor and reinforce the agreement. _____


Which of the skills listed above is your strongest skill? Which of these skills do you need to work on?
How might you work on this skill in the future?


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