There are certain skills that few leaders can master and never think about improving. One of those skills is the art of negotiation. I admit, there are people who seem to ooze confidence when it comes to wheeling-and-dealing to achieve the result they want. However, for the majority, being able to negotiate a quality resolution is sporadic at best.
When thinking about negotiating, you could be facing a multi-million dollar deal on the table, a choice between vendors on a specific service or type of software, buying a home, or something as simple as managing your workload. Negotiation, like any skill, is something you can improve over time as you continue to practice. And, it’s not about winning or getting everything you want and ensuring the other person does not. When done well, it’s about skillfully and creatively arriving at a solution that both parties can walk away from with dignity and a level of satisfaction.
According to an article in Psychology Today, by a factor of 2.5, more women than men feel a “great deal of apprehension” about negotiating, reports economist Linda Babcock, of Carnegie Mellon. Women go to great lengths to avoid the bargaining process—paying almost $1,400 more to avoid negotiating the price of a car. (That may explain why 63 percent of those who buy cars made by Saturn, a company that promises a no-haggle price, are women.) But “failing to negotiate her salary just once will cost a woman $500,000 over the course of her career,” she says. Statistics like those are reason enough to prove that by being a strong, confident negotiator, you can receive more value over time in your interactions.
What you want vs. what you need
One mistake we make is to believe that what we want is what we are negotiating for. This should not be the case. In order to be most successful, you need to focus time on determining exactly what you need. For example, I recently participated in a negotiation exercise where another person and I had to negotiate for an orange. We could not share with each other why we wanted the orange. In my case, I needed the orange zest for something. The other person needed the orange juice. But, without proper negotiation, we fell into the ease that most people would of just dividing the orange in half. That solution did not really give us what we needed.
We both wanted the whole orange. We each needed only a part. Dividing it in half was not the most successful outcome. Had we been allowed to communicate our needs, we could have arrived at the solution that I would take the rind and she would take the inside of the orange. Then, each person would have had exactly what we needed.
Arm yourself with information
Taking time to research that company you want to work for, the interest rates and terms of a mortgage option or the goals of the department head that you are fighting with over resources will be time well spent. The more you can learn about the needs of the other side, the better off you will be at creatively arriving at the best solution.
Don’t be afraid to be honest
A good example of honesty paying off comes when negotiating workload. Many employees today get their work from multiple sources; a supervisor, other colleagues, company leaders, clients, vendors, volunteers…the list goes on and on. After sifting through what needs to be done, being able to approach certain people and squarely addressing and negotiating different deadlines and deliverables will be key to better managing your work. Be honest about the various pulls on your time and ask them what aspects of the request are flexible. Start negotiating there.
Building a relationship
In the end, being able to negotiate a situation with someone will ideally build a stronger relationship with that person. By showing respect and understanding for the other person’s needs, that person will likely want to keep the relationship going.