Becoming a better negotiator is becoming a better communicator and thus, becoming a more successful individual. Negotiation skills are important to everyone, whether at school, university, when looking for a job, while at a job, when starting a business and when seeking investment or financing. It is one of the essential skills in any career.
Basic fundamentals of Negotiation skills
There are many ways to improve your negotiation skills. It is always good to establish some fixed points, upon which you can handle even conflicting viewpoints. Here are some basic points to consider in your back mind every time and for every negotiation.
- Active Listening: This powerful skill allows you to gather information about the other party and make them think you are on their side. Listen. Show understanding. Ask open-ended questions, and help them describe their problems more specifically.
- Emotional Control: Keep your negative emotions in check although it is very possible that the discussion might frustrate you at times. However, giving the lead to your emotions will negatively affect your thinking ability and might lead you to rush to the wrong thing to say or do.
- Time: The longer you remain in control, the more you can use the time to your benefit. Nobody likes to feel they are in a rush or under pressure. Slow things down. Allow the other to talk and feel they are taking part in the decision process, while you gradually lead them to your resolution, instead of directly imposing it on them.
- Decision-Making Ability: While you abide by all the above, it is important to be a firm decision maker. Remember you don’t want to give the impression that you are taking it slow because you are hesitant about what you really want. On the contrary, you should act decisively, either accept or reject a compromise.
- Ethics & Reliability: This equally deserves the first and the last place. It is important at the beginning to establish an environment of trust and respect. But also at the end, you should stick to the promises of your resolution.
These are basic negotiation skills points to be considered to kick start your negotiations, but that doesn’t mean you can’t spice them up with your own values and character traits that make you stand out as a successful negotiator.
Work on Body language
Body language is an ideal judge of people’s behaviour and constitutes more than 50% of any communication. As condensed and brief as possible, these below points are almost all you should know:
- Set a Benchmark: Body language is more or less universal, yet you can’t apply it to everyone equally. First, you have to understand the person in front of you. For that purpose, start a light conversation asking questions whose answers you already know. This helps you observe how others behave when not under pressure, so that you later develop a more accurate reading of their body language.
- Learn the Basics: Always learn the meaning of common gestures. For example, leaning forward is agreement, leaning backwards is disagreement, nodding the head is approval, frowning the eyebrows is suspicion, and looking away is disinterest. Learning about these will help you both interpret the other’s response and control yours.
- Defuse Tension: It is only natural that tension grows around the conflicting arguments during a negotiation. However, a positive mood is substantial for reaching an agreement, and it gives you the sense of power to be the one who gives back the conversation its positive vibes. Smile like you mean it, nod your head occasionally and maintain friendly eye contact.
- Build Rapport: This is probably the best for running successful conversations. By nature, people feel safe and secure when surrounded with familiar things or people they feel they already know. Gradually, try to mirror the person facing you, changing one gesture at a time until you are sitting and interacting exactly like them.
- Relax Your Body: This most likely goes without saying. In fact, a relaxed body does it all. It shows you’re confident, positive and reliable.
Learning body language is not a study you accomplish overnight or after a few tests. It is a continuous process of reading people and deeply understanding how every person is unique. All of that all starts from knowledge.
Things to Avoid during negotiation
Consider these mistakes you preferably avoid as you improve your negotiation skills:
- Showing you’re the Final Decision Maker: Even if you really are, don’t show it. Mention someone else you should refer to, whether a higher authority or a partner. You neither want the opposing negotiators to pressure you with making a decision on the spot, nor think that you’re the only person they’ve got to manipulate.
- Sticking to the Plan: A plan is necessary prior to negotiation. If you stick to its rigid scenarios, you will risk losing many opportunities. Instead, maximize your focus during a negotiation and be flexible to figure out on spot-solutions. While your primary plan rests in the back of your mind, only as a guide but not more.
- Taking It Personal: Play it as calm as you can. Show the opposing negotiators that you can’t be easily provoked or impressed. Even if they speak angrily, stay relaxed. It might be a trap to get you more emotional and less in control.
- Signaling to Closure: When you say something like, “Ok, we are nearly getting there,” it shows that you are eager to finish. The other party, if skilled, will be very likely to seize this opportunity and rush through the conditions. They still want to impose, knowing that you won’t protest any longer.
- Ignoring Future Prospects: Sometimes a small successful deal turns out to be the start of many other great feats. Don’t underestimate the importance of any negotiation skills and always do your best. Regardless of the negotiation’s outcome, maintaining good relationships will benefit you one day.
Now, it is already easier to avoid the mistakes as you are aware of them. After all, mistakes aren’t but opportunities to learn, change and improve.