We negotiate all the time with people we see on a regular basis – and with whom we have an ongoing relationship that’s important to maintain.
Negotiation is essentially the process of reaching agreements. In business, it might be with business partners, vendors, investors, and employees. At home, it might be with your spouse – from whether to go out or stay in, or whether to stay together. Or with your kids – from whether to buy the new toy or the new car.
It’s no secret that knowing how to negotiate skillfully and effectively is essential for business success. It also helps to create good parenting, healthy relationships with our children, and a stronger marriage.
So how can you get what you want from in your negotiations without “upsetting the apple cart” in your relationships? Try these four “winning” ways.
1. Listen to really understand.
The other person’s point of view can look very different than yours. That’s because we each interpret things differently according to our particular personal experiences and beliefs.
According to the Harvard Law School, Program on Negotiation, even if you have decided to make the first offer and are ready with a number of alternatives, you should always open by asking and listening to assess your counterpart’s interests. And the more you can learn about what the other person needs or wants, the better your position in the negotiation.
Assuming you know what they want can easily derail any negotiation. The worst negotiators I’ve encountered in over 25 years practicing law are the ones who dominate the negotiation and continuously argue the merits of their position.
Instead, begin by asking open-ended questions and listen very carefully. Listen to the words as well as tone, body language and by reading between the lines. You can really learn a lot about the other person by focusing on the context instead of the content of what they’re saying. Do they appear angry, frustrated, or scared? This will help you manage your own emotions by staying focused.
Likewise, when the other person sees that you understand where they’re coming from, they’re more likely to trust you. People are generally more likely to accept suggestions and do business with those they know, like, and trust.
2. Keep the negotiations respectful.
Particularly when negotiating a business transaction that requires ongoing involvement or with someone you’d like to do business with again, it’s key to be respectful and collaborative. The negotiation is far more likely to be successful than if you come across as insulting or abusive.
By the same token, according to established social science research, people tend to respond to others’ actions with similar actions. Therefore, if we cooperate with others and treat them with respect, they’re likely to respond in kind.
3. Ask for something in return for a concession.
It’s important to avoid continually conceding, or giving in, to what the other person wants. Otherwise, the other person will just keep asking for more unreasonable things and know that you’ll eventually give in. So, if you give in on a point, make sure to ask for something in return.
4. Put it in writing.
You can keep the momentum going by putting agreed upon key terms in writing. This will also help secure the other person’s commitment.
These straightforward strategies can make a big difference in the outcome of your negotiations – with your relationships not only intact, but better.
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