The Secret of Good Negotiation

It’s definitely not groundbreaking to state that the key to good business is good communication. Speaking with coworkers, bosses, and clients alike clearly and charismatically leads to opportunities and builds relationships. However, situations inevitably arise where parties involved want very different things. In these cases, it can be difficult to work out a solution that satisfies everyone involved, and, in the worst cases, can burn bridges and alienate others.

It behooves any business professional to educate themselves on the best pathways through negotiation, a treacherous process that can be sabotaged by emotions running high. Because of this, the first step to approaching negotiation is to assess the way you’re feeling and know how your emotions could affect your judgment. Sometimes, it’s possible to pause for contemplation, especially if you’re communicating exclusively through email. This is the best case scenario, but if you’re in the middle of a conversation, stepping out just isn’t possible. To respond well in these cases, taking time to train yourself in mindfulness is helpful, not only for business, but for your life. Meditation apps such as Calm, Headspace, and Omvana are all viable options when it comes to training yourself to process your own emotions.

Still, going into any communication, it can be easy to forget that the negotiations don’t start until the parties involved disagree on something. It’s helpful to know ahead of time if there are any points of contention that should be considered. Knowing the individuals that you’re bargaining with can be helpful in determining what they may be looking to get out of a conversation. It’s difficult, if not downright impossible, to reach a conclusion where everyone involved gets exactly what they want, but if you go into a conversation with an idea of how to reach a compromise before debate even starts, it can accelerate an often lengthy process

For this to work, you’ll need to know your own priorities. Compromise will likely involve some concessions on your part as well, so it’s useful to know what’s at stake and what can be abandoned. Reflect on the long-term consequences of your actions when negotiating, especially if you’re feeling frustrated or angry. Have a clear sense of what you want to achieve and how far you’re willing to go to meet those goals.

Now, when it comes to actual negotiation, it helps to not acquiesce too quickly to the other party’s demands. This isn’t to say that you should be combative, but the individual that you’re bargaining with will end up more satisfied if they feel that they had to work for a specific result. It’s psychologically proven through a phenomenon called the anchor effect. If you set a specific number off the bat and overshoot what you want, it offers a point to move the conversation toward, and you’ll be more likely to end up with something in the ballpark that you’re looking for. Of course, it’s vital that you set the mark first in this case, rather than waiting for the other party to make their own demands.

With some solid research into the expectations of the individual that you’re speaking to, you can get a sense of what they’ll be looking for, and negotiate in kind. You may be surprised at what you can accomplish if you ask for something and provide a reason, even if it’s one that doesn’t make sense. Does this sound strange? Surprisingly, the phrase “fake it ’til you make it” has a great deal of power in negotiation; perception of need can be even more powerful than actual need.

Even then, while setting the tone of a discussion is valuable, you should endeavor not to dominate it. Actively listen to what the other parties involved are looking for, and pay close attention to the mood and the other person’s body language. Establish a rapport with the other person, and start the conversation by discussing shared goals and successes. Comfort can go a long way when it comes to negotiation, and a big part of that is ensuring that you’re actively listening.

While it can be a challenge to navigate negotiation in a way that proves satisfactory to all involved, learning the skills can make you a better businessperson and even improve your personal relationships. Consider taking time to think about how you’ve handled negotiation in the past and ways that you can improve in the future.

Originally published at on May 16, 2017.