Negotiation is critical to almost every aspect of business, but teaching negotiation skills is something few businesses do. Instead, companies rely on an outdated idea that people either are, or are not, good negotiators and hire accordingly. Even the best negotiators can learn new skills and strengthen existing skills.
Different kinds of negotiation may make different skills more or less important. For example, if you are attempting to negotiate a higher salary, research might be the most important skill. However, if you are attempting to negotiation a repayment of debt someone owes you, you empathy and problem solving may be the most important skills. Empathy will help you determine why the bill hasn’t been paid, and problem solving may be able to help you gain payment for a bill the debtor does not feel like he or she can pay.
It’s safe to say that no matter what kind of negotiation you’re engaged in, these five skills are required.
Whether you’re negotiating a severance package, a lower rent, or selling a car, things can get heated quickly. Being in control of your emotions, and the way you display your emotions physically is critical to being a good negotiator. The minute you become visibly angry or upset, you have most likely lost the negotiation. If you routinely have trouble controlling your emotions in difficult situations you may want to investigate anger management or other emotional support.
Problem Analysis and Problem Solving
It’s hard to solve a problem if you don’t know what the actual problem is. Good negotiators are capable of figuring out the problem and finding a way around it. Take a common personal example, you want Thai food for dinner but your husband wants Italian. You might assume that the problem is that your husband doesn’t want anything unfamiliar, but asking a few questions could reveal that the actual problem is your husband doesn’t want anything spicy. Finding a restaurant that is willing to adjust the spice level solves the problem.
Empathy and Teamwork
Not every negotiation is a win/lose situation. Sometimes you need to be able to see the situation from the other person’s point of view and work with the person to come up with a solution that works for everyone. You can practice empathy at work and at home by asking for explanations of situations and statements and really trying to understand someone else’s point of view. If you are interested in building empathy and teamwork in your staff, there are a variety of exercises you can try, including this popular arm “wrestling” exercise.
Verbal Communication Skills
This is perhaps the most obvious negotiation skill needed. You can’t effectively ask for something if no one knows what it is you’re asking. If you’re worried that you don’t communicate effectively in person, consider taking public speaking or even theater classes to improve your skills.
Ethics and Accountability
We all know that we can get people to do what we want by lying, cheating, or blackmailing. We also know that sometimes we are overly optimistic in our promises in order to get something that we want. Unethical tactics and a lack of accountability may help you achieve a goal in the short run, but they will hurt you in the long run. Having a history of bad practices will hurt your reputation, and will make it hard for people to trust you down the road. Once you have lost someone’s trust it is almost impossible to negotiate with the person.
No one is born a great negotiator. In our families, at school, on the playground and at work we all slowly gain the information and skills we need to help us achieve our goals. Training yourself and helping your staff to improve their negotiation skills is a doable, and rewarding experience.