More Elements of Successful Negotiation


As I’ve written previously, the goal of your negotiation efforts should naturally be to find an outcome that works for both you and the other side. This kind of a “win-win” result is not as difficult to achieve as it sometimes seems.

That’s because there are many specific tactics to significantly increase your chances of getting the negotiated results you seek.

Here are a few of the better ones:

Dial-In Your Attitude

Different negotiating situations in various areas of your work and your life often yield better results when you display suitable attitudes.

For example, if you’re negotiating to buy something like a new car, you’ll almost certainly get a better deal if you appear disinterested, perhaps reluctant to agree to a deal, possibly even willing to walk away and never look back. If you display too much enthusiasm and excitement – in the car lot as well as many other negotiating situations – you’ll probably have a more difficult time getting others to dial back their demands and accede to the result you want.

However, if you’re negotiating a compensation package – whether on a new job or one you already hold – those same emotions nearly always work in your favor. In job-related situations, enthusiasm and excitement are strong signifiers that you’re willing and eager to give the company your best efforts. If you appear disinterested or lukewarm about the position, the employer is likely to question your worth to the team, and may even decide you’re not a good fit.

Depending on the details of the negotiating situation, other attitudes to consider displaying include:

  • Helpfulness or helplessness.
  • Frustration or anger.
  • Authority, connections, influence or supplication, neediness.
  • Friendliness or emotional distance.

One attitude that nearly always seems helpful in negotiations, however, is confidence. Projecting confidence lends authority and weight to everything you say, and works to make others feel more inclined to “talk turkey,” “get down to brass tacks,” and ultimately cut a deal with you.

For any and all negotiations, you can build your confidence by intentionally beefing up and honing your negotiating skills. For any particular negotiation, you can feel more confident by nailing down in advance the details of what you’re prepared to give and what you’re hoping to get in exchange.

Negotiate Wisely

The negotiation process depends at bottom on the surrounding context and the relationship: this could be complex ones you’ve developed during multiple interactions with the same person or group over a long period of time, or this could be the simple ones you quickly establish with a stranger at the moment negotiation begins, a strictly transactional context and relationship you consciously develop as the negotiation continues.

In either case, several elements are important:

You must determine you’re negotiating with the correct party, which is generally a person or group who:

  • Has enough time to work through and complete the negotiation.
  • Has enough information to understand what you are negotiating.
  • Has enough flexibility to meet your bottom-line demands.
  • Has enough authority to negotiate final terms.

If you’re not negotiating with the correct party, coming to an acceptable agreement will almost certainly take longer and prove more difficult.

You must give the other side plenty of opportunity to explain their position on each of the items under negotiation. This involves not only asking the right questions, but sitting quietly and waiting for the other side to answer in full.

Sitting quietly in the midst of a negotiation creates psychological pressure for someone to communicate. If you consciously decline to say anything more, the other side nearly always will, often unconsciously revealing important details. You can then absorb and analyze the information they offer for a clearer sense of where they stand.

Anything you can learn about the pressures, attitudes, values, and priorities driving the other side, in particular which negotiable elements and considerations are most and least important to them, may provide you with a helpful advantage in the negotiation.

Negotiate Objectively

Expressing just the right attitude can be helpful in your negotiations. But if your emotions carry you away, they may lead you farther from where your best interests lie.

That’s why it’s usually more productive when your negotiating stance reflects priorities and goals any objective observer would see as realistic, sensible, and fair. Demanding too much, or accepting too little, is unlikely to produce a satisfying negotiated outcome.

Even more important, undercurrents of emotions like pride, fear, greed, or jealously will likely impair your judgment, cause you to misinterpret or overlook important signals coming from the other side, and perhaps generate remarks or behaviors that slow or even disrupt the negotiations.

Negotiating in these ways, from your head rather than your heart, will increase your chances of obtaining the “win-win” results you are striving for.  

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