10 Tips for Successful Negotiation

Whether you agree with today’s strike action or not isn’t it disappointing that the discussions don’t appear to have progressed or be any closer to being resolved. You may feel frustrated that all you get are sound bites from both sides blaming the other and a desire to bang their heads together.

It would be good to know who are involved in the actual negotiations and how the meetings are being handled or whether they’ve brought in independent mediators to help move the discussions forward.

Whatever, the reason for today’s strikes, the failure to reach a resolution is a failure of leadership from both sides. For negotiation to reach successful conclusions certain leadership skills and attributes must be present.

Here are 10 top tips for negotiating successfully.

1. Have the right attitude

Only with a ‘win-win’ attitude from both sides can a long-term agreement be reached. Aim to reach a decision that works for both groups rather than have an “I must win” attitude. Without the right attitude there will be winners and losers, there will be resentment, relationships will be weakened, trust will disappear, the chances of the agreement working reduced and the next negotiation will be far harder.

Without the right attitude, most negotiations fail before they even begin.

2. Put yourselves in their shoes

Really strive to understand the views and position of the other person or group. Only through mutual understanding and respect can a fair resolution be reached.

3. Present the facts

Back-up your position with the facts of the case. Don’t simply tell the other party that what they’re requesting is difficult or impossible. Show them why you say this. Show them what the impact would be on the bigger picture.

Show the big picture and the long-term benefit of your position to both parties. Look at the other party’s big picture view with an open mind. You may see an angle you hadn’t thought of be able to adapt yours to suit both. If the negotiation is complex enough then draw a picture…create a mind map.

4. Be creative

There is usually more than one right answer in these situations so work together to create alternatives that could satisfy both parties and brainstorm these scenarios thoroughly.

5. Listen

This is harder than it sounds. We’ve all had conversations where we can tell that the other person is just waiting for you to finish so they can tell you what they think. And we’re all guilty of doing that too. If an important thought forms then make a quick note and clear your mind to properly listen to what others are saying. If necessary summarise what they said back to show that you listened and took it on board.

6. Don’t get emotional

Stay calm and objective. As soon as emotion comes into an argument it is lost. (Of course I’m not referring to personal family or relationship matters where emotions and feelings are usually at the heart of the problem.) If one person gets angry the other will get defensive and barriers will go up.

Respect each other’s right to say what they want and respect their point-of-view. Trust that they wouldn’t say something if it wasn’t important to them. Be aware of your body language and keep it open and relaxed. If the negotiation meetings are with teams then mix up the seating so that teams don’t face each other across the table like rival gangs.

7. Move the conversation forward

If responding to the last thing said merely has the conversation going round in circles then break the cycle.

Demonstrate that you’ve understood the argument and where you see it fitting in the overall discussion and reassure that it will be addressed. Don’t dismiss anything that’s said but, if necessary, re-order the agenda to keep the conversation moving forward.

If it makes sense, section the conversation and do a re-cap at the end of each. If a point hasn’t been resolved and can’t be at that point in time then show why and reassure that it will be addressed.

8. Give each other time to think

Depending on the size of the negotiation it makes sense to break it down into milestones that you both agree to aim to achieve. Go away and think and discuss with your own party the progress made and milestones reached. Look at your own position and original arguments along the way and see if it can be adapted to bring you both closer to a final agreement.

9. Keep the relationship going

If necessary, keep the relationship going by having contact with each other in between meetings. Don’t discuss the detail but you could say how you feel progress is going and your hope for the future. If you’re not comfortable with that then talk about other things. Just don’t have chasms of silence in between meetings. Be transparent and if necessary tell your team that you spoke with the head of the other team.

10. Mediation

Sometimes bringing in an outsider to facilitate the meetings will progress the negotiation to a mutually agreeable resolution far quicker as well as increase the chances of a resolution being reached. External facilitators or mediators won’t be as emotionally involved and can see the wood for the trees.

Bringing this person in shouldn’t be seen as a sign of failure but an indication of how seriously both parties are taking the matter.

Last Word…

Reaching a successful conclusion starts and ends with attitude. A great leader enters into a negotiation knowing that, even if he or she holds all the cards and could “win”, the best result is the one that all positively agree to.

Provided compromise isn’t seen as a weakness but as a strength which is required to reach a mutually beneficial conclusion then nearly all situation can be resolved to the benefit of all.

What do you think is necessary to ensure mutually beneficial resolutions are achieved?