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  • Writer's pictureCraig Risi

Improving your power of Negotiation

In my previous article, I looked at some tips that can aid us in making better decisions. In life and business though there is far more to executing decisions than that. A fair amount of negotiation is also required to both build an understanding of circumstances and understanding, along with often convincing people on the right decisions that need to be made.

So, in this article, I want to talk about some pointers that could lead to improving your negotiation skills. From becoming better at negotiating those critical decisions, to also growing your influence in any given team or even just needing to convince your boss that you need a raise or some critical time off. Negotiating skills can pay off in many ways and so it is critical that we look into developing them in our careers.

Identify Shared Interests

First off, the key foundation to any negotiation is to remember that it needs to serve the purpose of achieving common goals. There is no point in trying to convince people over to something you want to do if you take no interest in trying to understand their side of things and see how you could potentially bring a resolution to their arguments too.

One of the biggest problems I have seen in corporate negotiation is an unwillingness from either aspect of a business or individuals to try and see another person's perspective and drive decisions regardless of the criticisms or concerns of others. Yes, in war critical decisions need to be made and followed without question or concern from various subordinates, but business is not war and the best decisions are often made when it can solve problems facing multiple people. If we don’t seek to at least identify how we can find a common ground, people will feel left out and walked over and could easily become disengaged and look to work elsewhere instead.

But before you can find that common ground, you need to not focus on perhaps the differences of opinions and ideas that people have and first work on identifying those shared interests. Very seldom do people not want to see a shared success in some form or another and so even in the most seemingly diverse of viewpoints, it should be possible to identify areas where both sides have a mutual interest. It’s those aspects that should then be focused on in trying to build common ground rather than trying to work on the differences.

Provide different options

In any negotiation, we need to be open-minded to different ideas and opinions to try and identify the right approach. And similarly, we need to be prepared to look at different options and solutions in finding the one that best meets the most needs. Even if this means that options that are not your most preferred solution may be considered by others. If the merits of your option still highlight that it is the right approach, people will be more willing to listen to it and see that than if you simply shut out other options and considerations in the process.

And when it comes to negotiation, the process is as important as the end result; how we approach it and work with others sets the foundation for not just one decision, but people’s future willingness to work with you and engage in your negotiations.

Focus on the problem

We want to look for common interests and explore different options, but we need to ensure that solving the core problem remains the common focus. Now, often in negotiation, there is a multitude of problems that may need to be solved at one time, so it’s also important to e able to identify which problems are them sot critical and core issues that need to be solved and which others could perhaps be looked at another time or perhaps compromised on where needed.

Remember the purpose

At times in negotiation, we can easily get side-tracked by our difference of opinion and that is why it is required that the purpose of the negotiation is about. Yes, while often a problem needs to be solved and we need to focus on that, negotiation is about finding agreement and so we need to ensure that in trying to push too hard for one particular solution that we aren’t preventing an opportunity for an agreement.

Explore hidden attitudes

People’s motivations are seldom obvious and even if clear problems and interests have been communicated with all parties don’t be blind to other hidden attitudes that could be leading to certain people’s frustration or desire to explore different options. People are driven by many different factors and often recent frustrations in some form or another can have n effect on their decision-making.

It's important not to criticize or minimize this in any way, but rather look to understand where certain attitudes may be coming from (and preferably privately if needed) and see if an alternative solution for them could be found, either beforehand or at a later time if it is less important.

In every area, we need to allow people to express themselves and their frustrations, even if unrelated to the solution at hand – provided it is not abusive to any person. This helps people to feel heard, included in the decision-making, and that their interests matter. By shutting these down, we can often leave people being bullied or sidelined in the eventual outcome of a negotiation and they become disengaged as a result.

Avoid Disputes

Nothing can derail a negotiation like a big dispute. And this is why it should be avoided at all costs. When agreements can’t be reached, it's often best to take a break from the negotiation and agree to revisit it at a later time. This allows all parties to think through the different options and data a little more and perhaps gain more clarity on a way forward. However, if we lead into any actual dispute, chances are that negotiation will likely cease, and needs on both sides will not be met. And if you are the instigator of the negotiation, you also lose a lot of credibility and jeopardize the future.

Ensure that you prevent big disputes before they occur and rather allow different topics to be put on hold and discussed at a later time. If it means decisions can’t be made – unless otherwise critical – allow for that too.

Communicate the outcomes effectively

In any negotiation, we should look to follow it up with an email or some form of notification of what was discussed and the agreed-upon outcomes. This ensures that there is no miscommunication in the process and that the final decisions are clear to all involved. It also serves as a reminder for everyone to know what is required of them and an opportunity to continue the conversation if anything else comes up.

Get feedback

Even if the outcomes of any particular negotiation were achieved quite well, we can’t assume that everyone was satisfied with the outcomes. So, it's important to get follow up on how the negotiation went down and importantly how you came across in it. You want to ensure that you don’t come across as rude or insensitive, but rather open to all parties and if there are areas for you to improve in the future – it’s important that you take that on and work on getting better at future negotiations.

The skill of negotiation is an important one to possess in the business world and can often derive the success you will find in your career. It’s a critical form of communication that we often judge based on how we approach them, so work on getting these things right. Getting everyone on the same page is never easy ad often impossible at times, but if you can leave meetings or negotiations with people at least feeling like they were considered and that the situation was well handled, it can often prove to be of greater value than the final outcome itself.


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