As a business professional, it’s almost guaranteed you’ll be required to participate in negotiations from time to time, regardless of your job title or industry. Strong negotiation skills are critical to your career success – not just during a job search but also on the job. And there are actually several different skills you need to draw on to negotiate successfully. With practice you can strengthen them and make them work for you.
When you’re negotiating, be mindful that you’re actually paying attention. Often when we’re nervous or focused on our own agenda, we may not fully hear what the other person is saying. To really listen, you might take a moment to pause after the other person speaks, for example, and essentially repeat back what you just heard, asking if you’ve captured it accurately. This will allow your brain to catch up with what is being said and give you time to process.
To achieve your ideal outcome at the bargaining table, it’s essential to clearly communicate what you’re hoping to walk away with and where your boundaries lie. Effective communication skills allow you to engage in a civil discussion with other negotiators and work toward an agreeable solution. Deal-making naturally requires give and take, so it’s important to articulate your thoughts and actively listen to others’ ideas and needs. Without this skill, key components of the discussion can be overlooked, making it impossible for everyone to leave the negotiation satisfied.
Emotions play a role in negotiation, for better or worse. While it’s important not to let them get in the way of reaching a mutually beneficial deal, you can use them to your advantage. For example, positive emotions have been shown to increase feelings of trust at the bargaining table, while feelings of anxiety or nervousness can be channeled into excitement. A high degree of emotional intelligence is needed to read other parties’ emotions. This can enable you to more easily pick up on what they’re implying rather than explicitly stating.
The ability to influence others is an important skill of negotiation. It can help you define why your proposed solution is beneficial to all parties and encourage others to support your point of view. In addition to being persuasive, negotiators should be assertive when necessary. Assertiveness allows you to express your opinions while respecting the other side’s perspectives.
Creating value in a negotiation is one of the most powerful skills you can add to your toolkit. To illustrate its importance, consider this analogy: When participating in a negotiation, each party is typically concerned with obtaining the biggest “slice of the pie” possible. With each party vying to maximize their slice, this inherently means some will be forced to leave with a much smaller piece.
To break free of this traditional idea of negotiation, experts suggest shifting your goals from growing your slice to growing the whole pie. The benefits are twofold: First, each party can realize greater value; second, a sense of rapport and trust is established, which can benefit future discussions.
Negotiation skills can help you develop your career, secure a higher salary and meet critical business needs. Continuous practice is key to improve your negotiation ability. The more negotiations you take part in, the more prepared you’ll be for future dealings. Structured learning opportunities can also prove to be highly beneficial. Resources that explore real-life examples of successful negotiations can give you perspective on how others navigated difficult discussions and prepare you to face similar scenarios.
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