Negotiating successfully

Negotiation is when two or more parties with different needs and goals try to find a mutually acceptable solution. A successful outcome will help the parties build better relationships, lasting, long-term solutions that satisfy both parties’ needs and assist in avoiding future problems and conflicts.

As Steven Covey suggests in his book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People“, negotiating requires give-and-take that is a win-win for both parties. A good negotiation leaves each party satisfied and ready to do business with each other again.

Good negotiators are flexible, creative, aware of themselves and others, good planners, honest, win-win oriented and good communicators.

Lawyers train to be confrontational and to posture, scoring points with their clients. Aggression will only alienate other parties and destroy negotiations.

The trick is to be calm, confident, and considerate. A skilled negotiator will keep the discussion going and facilitate mutually beneficial outcomes. He or she will not confuse negotiation with confrontation and will remain calm, professional, and patient. They will never make it personal or become angry or hostile.

A good negotiator will consider the expectations of both sides and prepare for compromise and mutually beneficial solutions. Most importantly, they will put things in writing. Compromise does not mean capitulation but settling for a result that is moderately satisfactory to the participants. A good tactic is conceding a point that is not vital to one party but is critical to the other.

Experience shows that it is better to avoid a stern approach and adopt principled negotiation as the best practice. A skilled negotiator will focus on interests, not positions, and generate various objective criteria before settling on an agreement.

A successful negotiation requires strategy, planning, and preparation. Define the minimum acceptable, anticipated, and ideal outcome. Write a plan to list, rank and value the issues and any compromises or concessions parties might make.

A skilled negotiator will know when to look for closing signals like fading counterarguments or tired body language from the other party. They will summarise where negotiating positions converge, and articulate agreements reached and concessions already made.

They will get the agreement in writing and signed as soon as possible.

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