Practical communication skills: The art of negotiation
Whether we are buying a house, planning a merger, discussing wages, meeting the bank manager, or fighting over the remote control, we all negotiate on a daily basis. So naturally, we'd all like to be good at negotiating and we'd all like to be able to 'get our own way' most of the time.
However, negotiation is a two-way process and it is worth bearing in mind this observation about human nature: if you want an agreement or compromise to be sustainable, people must leave the meeting room feeling satisfied that they have really agreed something, not that they've been bulldozed into submission.
Here are some pointers towards successful negotiation:
Devise a plan
First you must ask yourself what it is that you want, and why. Listing your objectives will help you work out exactly where you are willing to concede ground and where you want to stand firm. This will help you keep control of negotiations and offer incentives and compromises: "I'll let you have x, if I can have y". Then imagine yourself in the other party's position and anticipate their likely responses and objections.
Express yourself clearly and positively. Do your research and make sure you are familiar with the main points you want to make. This will help your confidence and there is nothing more powerful than backing up an argument with hard facts and figures.
Never be the first to lose your cool
There is nothing more unsettling or undermining than someone keeping their cool and answering calmly when you are red with rage. Even if the other party is being wilfully obstructive, count to ten and stay calm.
Show that you are listening
Don't just push your side. Always be friendly and polite and demonstrate that you are not there to talk about your needs alone. This is essential if you want the other party to feel that they have really contributed to the final compromise and 'got something out of it'.
Prepare for the unexpected
Don't be thrown off course if the other party changes direction. Be ready to think on your feet.
Make it official
Once you have secured your agreement, ask for written confirmation, signed by both parties, and prepare an action plan with clear guidelines for responsibility and follow-up.