The Art of Negotiation

Everything I needed to know about negotiation, I learned from my daughter

Photo by Akshar Dave on Unsplash

Negotiation skills are one of the most valuable skills that any person can have and they can be applied to all areas of life. There’s a lot of professional training available on negotiation skills and I’ve tried my share of those programs. But the funny thing is, I’ve learned more about negotiation in the last few years from my daughter than from any book or professional training! Let me share with you five things I’ve learned from my daughter about negotiation.

Understand the Other Party’s Situation before Negotiating

The success or failure of any negotiation depends a lot on how the other party’s feeling. When my daughter is overtired and grumpy, there’s no point in trying any sort of negotiation, be it asking her to eat, pack her toys away, or do her homework. Yes, she needs to do all these, but I need to consider my approach. I’ve learned that in some situations, it’s better to postpone a negotiation than fight a battle doomed to fail. It’s also important to remember that just because you have some sort of influence or authority over the other party, it doesn’t mean you necessarily have an upper hand in negotiating with them. Just because I gave birth to my daughter doesn’t mean I can get her to agree to everything I say. Each situation is different and, in order to set yourself up for success, you have to tailor both your style and what you’re offering to cater to not only the overall situation but also the needs of the other party.

Don’t Make the First Offer

That said, even when you know what the other party wants, never ever make the first offer. Let them start and then work from there. For example, let’s say my daughter wants to eat two pieces of cake but I’d like her to only eat one. Rather than offering her a piece of cake right away, I’d wait to hear her offer. If she tells me that she wants two pieces, I can counter by telling her to have one piece right now on a special plate and save the other piece for the next day. As long as I make an offer that’s hard to refuse — in this case, a special plate and a chance to eat cake again the next day — negotiation will be a success.

Keep an Open Mind

Sometimes we get so caught up in our own assumptions and judgements that we forget to consider other perspectives — I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how understanding, generous, and kind a five-year-old can be! Keeping an open mind helps us communicate with empathy and create a win-win negotiation. After all, we don’t want short-term wins at the expense of long-term relationships.

Don’t Be Aggressive or Pushy

This may sound like a common sense, but sometimes we’re so eager to close a deal that we don’t notice we’re coming across as pushy. My daughter’s behaviour is often a reflection of mine. If my tone of voice is aggressive, hers will become aggressive too. On the other hand, if I’m calm and relaxed, she’ll respond that way too. Negotiation is a two-way street and, at the end of the day, it’s important for both parties to feel satisfied with the end result. But no one feels satisfied when they’ve been threatened or pushed into agreeing with something.

Listen Actively

Great listening skills give you an advantage when negotiating, and part of that is paying attention to non-verbal cues. By watching gestures and facial expressions, and taking note of tone of voice and choice of words, you can get valuable insight into understanding what type of proposition would work best for the other party. For example, my daughter would always claim she didn’t need to go to bed because she wasn’t tired, even though her eyes were puffy and she was yawning. By paying attention to her non-verbal cues, I’m better able to provide an offer that she’ll accept. The key point is to make the other party feel like it’s in their best interests to accept your offer.

The key to great negotiation skills is practice, practice, practice, and we have lots of opportunities for practice. Whether we realise it or not, we’re constantly negotiating — be it at home, at work, at school, at family gatherings, or at networking events. With practice comes confident, which lets us feel relaxed more able to negotiate in a way that results in a win-win deal. So keep practising! Even if you don’t do too well one day, another day you’ll be surprised at how well you did.

Unlocking your success

This is a chapter from my book, “Unlocking your success: The secrets to experiencing joy in your career and life”. Head over to Amazon to find out more about the book.