CAREER DEVELOPMENT / JAN. 15, 2015
version 4, draft 4

How to Improve Your Negotiation Skills

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Negotiation is a skill, not bestowed on a chosen few, which can be learned and honed. It takes time and is one of the most important tools in communication. Negotiation is important not only because we get into conflict with one another but because it can also be used as a tool in business. Negotiation seeks to find an amicable agreement while protecting ties. It is supposed to boil down to a win-win situation.

Prepare to Negotiate

Dale Carnegie noted that there is nothing more powerful than a salesman who understands his product. The confidence exuded by such a man is enough to convince people to buy whatever he is selling. The same principle applies in negotiation. Understand what it is that you want and what you are (are not) willing to give up to attain it. Know where to draw the line and walk away from a deal. To be prepared means to anticipate the other party’s demands. Have all the facts and understand the rules, if any, that govern the issue at hand.

Look at self critically

Most people focus on their weaknesses and lose even before the negotiations start. Others are over-confident and therefore undermine the other team. It is wise to understand your strengths, weaknesses as well as the other teams’. If you have never met the one with whom you intend to negotiate – for instance, in a job interview – then it would be best to focus on what you are good at it.

Body language

Body language speaks volumes. It reveals more than words do. It is thereby important to understand how your body ‘speaks’ when emotions such as nervousness, anger or happiness are at play. Knowing how you react in a certain situation is very helpful. You will be able to counter it by behaving in a way that not only keeps you calm and collected but also reflects the same to the others at the table. The best thing about body language is that it is two-way; you also pick cues from the rest. It is therefore as important, if not more important, to use body language to your advantage as you do words.

Listening versus Speaking

Just like with body language where one is supposed to strike a balance between the use of gestures, facial expressions and eye contact, listening and speaking demand a balance too. It is good to be heard but it is respectful and shows a high level of self confidence when you let the other party have their say. Instead of jumping to say something right after the other party speaks, take your time and digest the information. It can at times work to your advantage when the other team feels overwhelmed and says something to backtrack what they have said. It is not recommended though, to pause for too long as it may exhibit indecisiveness on your part.

After negotiations

After all is said and an agreement reached, it is important to draw up a contract and get signatures from parties involved. As it is a binding agreement, it is good to take some time and carefully go through the agreement. This exercise will ensure that both sides do not leave ‘feeling cheated’. In addition, a signed contract, unlike word of mouth, is always easier to prove in court.

In negotiation, people do not get what they deserve but rather, what they negotiate. Work on improving your negotiation skills.

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