The other day, I was engaged in a negotiation with a client. Most people hate negotiating anything. We feel we might lose. And losing makes us losers. (Donald Trump keeps telling us this, and I don’t agree. Losing makes us smarter, when we take the time to think about what went wrong and why.)
As the negotiation drew to a close, I realized that we negotiate for more and more often than we think. We agree on what to have for dinner, which movie to see, or who walks the dog. In the last sentence, I used a key word for successful negotiation–agreeing to something. Common agreement is the best outcome.
If you hate negotiation, feel that someone is always trying to get the better of you, here are some ideas that might help the next time you work toward agreement with others.
- Negotiation isn’t binary. It’s not win/lose or agree/disagree. Negotiation is a big-picture view of what is important to everyone, a sorting out of priorities, and a distribution of satisfaction.
- Negotiation is agreement. You don’t have to agree on everything, nor are you going to get everything you want, but that doesn’t mean you lost. The goal is to get some of the things that you do want. Try to focus on what is most important to you rather than on how many items you can check of your list as “won.”
- Negotiation is listening. In a negotiation, the other person is telling you about the content of his/her character as much as priorities. Listen carefully to both what is said and what is not said.
- Negotiation is asking questions. Sort out priorities. Find out what is important to the other person before you begin to ask for what you want. Not everything in a negotiation has the same value to everyone. For example, in my negotiation, the client wanted me at an out-of-the-way location at a certain date and time to teach a specific course. I was interested in being paid for the value of my services and to be paid promptly.
After showing that I was flexible in time and location as well as providing some evaluations from a similar course, the price didn’t seem unreasonable. I also agreed to some content customization in exchange for a reasonable payment schedule. We both got what we thought was most important and gave the other person what was important to a good overall outcome.
5. Check your fear at the door. Beware of starting from a sense of lack and attack–that you are under fire and that someone is trying to steal something from you. You will begin to see it and behave as if that were happening when it is not.
6. How you are treated during negotiation is the best you will ever be treated. Similar to item 3, negotiation reveals character. Yours and the other person’s. Someone who treats you badly during a negotiation is not going to switch to better, more reasonable, more generous behavior afterward. Listen very carefully to what is said and how it is said. Someone who tries to demean your work to your face will not praise it to others afterwards.
Negotiation can be a sensitive area, approach it carefully, but without fear.
—Quinn McDonald is beginning to think that listening is more important than talking in a negotiation.