When we think of negotiations, what often comes to mind are the bigger events like salary negotiations or business deals.
But we often don’t realize that we negotiate all the time. For instance, you might negotiate with your spouse who does the cleaning and who pays the bills.
Or we negotiate with a friend on where to go to dinner or which movie to see. We negotiate when buying a home or a car.
We even negotiate with our kids. When they’re younger, they might come to us begging for the newest toy or video game. And as teens, negotiations might involve curfew times or having their own car.
Therefore, knowing how to skillfully negotiate can make for good parenting and rewarding careers. By the same token, successfully negotiating with those important to us can strengthen these relationships and bring us closer to them.
Here are the top four most important negotiating skills for success at work and at home.
1. What do you most want to achieve?
Before starting any negotiation, clarify the end result you want. Be clear on the outcome that’s most important to you.
And it’s always a good idea to have a Plan B for getting what you want. This will give you more confidence in the negotiation. You also generally find that when you’re free to walk away, the other side is more likely to give in.
2. Increase the likelihood of getting a yes.
You might have heard the term “leverage” in negotiations. “Leverage” generally means an actual or perceived advantage in a negotiation.
Leverage generally more often comes into play when dealing with someone you know fairly well, for instance, a friend or family member. We tend to know what’s most likely to influence them.
Here’s an example. When our daughter turned 17, she repeatedly asked to get her own car. My husband and I refused. We emphasized she had use of our cars when available and financial resources needed to be preserved for the hefty college costs coming up in the Fall. And anyway, as we pointed out, she wouldn’t be able to have a car her first year of college.
But as it turns out, our daughter knew best. Knowing our son was about to start driving too, she pointed out the benefits of having a car available for him. And sure enough, when our son got his drivers permit, we relented and got our daughter a reliable used car. And with four drivers in the family, it turned out to be a good decision after all. Perhaps without knowing about leverage, our daughter had used hers to influence our decision in her favor.
3. Learn what the other person wants or needs.
In any negotiation, large or small, the person with the most information generally gets what they want. So, the more you can learn about what the other person needs or wants, the better your position.
It’s important not to assume you know. If you simply guess at what they want or need, you can easily derail the negotiation.
Instead, begin by asking the other party open-ended questions and listen very carefully. Listen to the words as well as tone, body language and by reading between the lines.
Here’s an example. I recently had a client who wanted a divorce. He and his wife had a contentious relationship and had two young daughters.
My client wanted to spend as much time with his daughters as he could, and he was concerned his wife would object out of anger for him.
I coached him on how to effectively communicate and negotiate with his wife. When he began communicating with her, he learned his wife shared his concern about how the divorce would impact the kids. He was also surprised to learn his wife was often frustrated by her lack of “free time.”
As a result, my client and his wife were able to successfully reach a co-parenting agreement of essentially equal time with the kids. This satisfied his desire to spend more time with them, and hers for more free time. Most importantly, the kids adjusted reasonably well to the divorce as they were regularly and often spending time with both parents. This leads into the final important tip…
4. Choose the right communication.
Before communicating in a negotiation, it’s important to first decide what you want to convey. Then you can choose the right words – as well as tone of voice, facial expressions, and body language – to show specifically the benefit to the other person.
Essentially, every negotiation, big or small, comes down to knowing what you want to achieve and planning and executing to achieve it.
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