Negotiation skills are not just for sales people and ruthless business tycoons. Negotiating comes into play in all professions:

  • If you are a marketing consultant, you negotiate hourly rates with clients.
  • If you are an events manager, you negotiate contracts with caterers, entertainment agents, and venue owners.
  • If you are an interior decorator, you negotiate special deals with your suppliers.

Negotiations don’t always have to be about money, either:

  • A journalist can use his or her negotiation skills to get exclusive access to a news story.
  • A computer programmer needs to negotiate with clients about what is and isn’t possible to achieve within a given timeframe.
  • Even a day-care worker needs to negotiate nap-time with naughty children!

So, regardless of your profession, here are 8 secrets you need to know for effective negotiation:

1. Don’t let your ego do the negotiating

Sometimes, negotiations can be more like two bulls locking horns than anything else. This is because people often care more about their egos during negotiations than about the actual results.

Make the end results the primary goal of the negotiations – not your ego, or winning an argument simply for the sake of winning.

2. Control the negotiation by giving some power away

Former FBI hostage negotiator Chris Voss, who taught business negotiation at Harvard University, says the following:

“One of the most effective tools in negotiation is the open-ended question. That’s a question that the other side can respond to but that has no fixed answer. The secret to gaining the upper hand in negotiations is giving the other side the illusion of control. And that’s exactly what an open-ended question does. It makes people feel powerful and in charge, and they have no idea how constrained and bound they are by it. You really frame the conversation for them, but they feel very powerful.”

Whether by using open-ended questions, or by using other means, ‘giving’ some power away can help you control the negotiations.

3. It doesn’t always have to be about winning.

Negotiating to win as if it’s a zero-sum game is a ruthless business practice that is prolific in American corporations. But you don’t have to do business like Donald Trump to be successful!

Negotiations don’t always need to be win-lose situations.

Creating healthy and mutually beneficial relationships with other professionals or businesses can be more rewarding in the long run than getting what you want during a single negotiation. Sometimes you have to ask whether getting what you want at all costs is worth souring a potentially beneficial business (or even personal) relationship.

4. Know thyself and thine enemy

One of the greatest business books ever written is in fact an ancient Chinese treatise written on bamboo almost 2000 years ago. While The Art of War by Sun Tzu talks about actual warfare, many of its lessons can be applied to modern business and negotiation tactics:

“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”

Knowing your own position, strengths, and weaknesses, as well as those of your opponent, will help you succeed in your negotiations.

5. Be honest where it counts

No-one likes those sleazy car salesmen who try to palm something off on you with an endless sales pitch about benefits, how perfect the car is, how pristine a condition it’s in, and how you won’t ever get a better deal in your lifetime! This is because we don’t trust them — because we know they aren’t giving us the full, honest picture.

Often, it helps your case to be honest, even if it seems to weaken your position. Being honest goes a long way towards establishing your own credibility and trustworthiness. Moreover, it humanises the negotiations, making it easier for the other person to understand your needs and perspective.

6. Use non-verbal communication effectively

Non-verbal communication includes, amongst other things:

  • Facial expressions
  • The tone and pitch of your voice
  • Hand gestures
  • Body language
  • Physical distance between people
  • Clothes
  • Eye contact
Did you know?

Non-verbal communication makes up roughly 65% of all communication! So do yourself a favour and go read up on how to use your own non-verbal skills effectively, and how to read the non-verbal cues of others.

7. Listen actively

Listening actively means paying attention to what others are saying and engaging with it. Listening actively will allow you to find out what drives another person, what their motivations are, and what’s important to them. Listening actively can give you an advantage during negotiations, or help you find a way to get what you want while also satisfying the other person.

8. Be willing to walk away

One of the most basic negotiation principles is to make it apparent that you are willing to walk away from the deal if it doesn’t satisfy your requirements. If the other person knows you cannot walk away from the deal, he or she will hold all the negotiating power.

When you aren’t willing to walk away from the deal, you can still create the impression that you are! The person who seems the most desperate to make the deal is usually the one who loses out more.

Effective negotiation is an essential skill for you to learn. Whether you are a businessman, entrepreneur, or babysitter, you will always be able to benefit from knowing how to negotiate effectively.

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