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10 Easy Ways to Improve Your Negotiation Skills
Today I am excited to improve my negotiation skills with a guest post from Elizabeth Suarez.  She is a highly regarded comprehensive strategist, facilitator, mediator, trainer, and coach as well as an ADR and Leadership Studies Faculty member at the University of Denver.  Elizabeth’s no-nonsense, hands-on business philosophy is highly regarded by her long list of clients.  I love this quote she uses by Dr. Chester L. Karrass…. “In business, you don’t get what you deserve, you get what you negotiate.” 
No matter your profession, negotiation skills are a must.  Think about the last time you met with your boss to discuss projects, overall performance, or a raise. What about a committee meeting to update your company’s strategic plan? In these situations, you have to engage in some level of negotiation; from setting the agenda to identifying next steps and responsible parties.

Improve Your Negotiation Skills

It amazes me how little we think about improving our negotiation skills. Recently I ‘Googled’ negotiation books and was overwhelmed by the hundreds of hits I received. Who has time to read them all? If you feel the same way, I would like to offer my list of 10 easy ways to improve your negotiation proficiency. The observations below were gleaned from my own experiences in both the corporate and academic worlds.

 

10 easy ways to improve your negotiation skills

#1. Prepare

It is mind-boggling how inadequately we prepare for any type of negotiation; from buying a car to presenting an investment idea to our company’s board of directors. By preparing I mean taking the time to learn more about each of the parties involved. You need to go beyond simply exploring what their needs and wants are. Imagine having to draw out and explain in detail what the other party’s experience and current views are on the topic to be discussed. For instance, if you are seeking a pay raise during tough economic times work on writing and drawing out the other person’s situation. When doing this, elaborate on his/her frustrations and what it is that is really making him/her unhappy. Your success will be based on how well you are able to understand, address, and solve the other person’s issues.

#2.  Know your style

Dr. Richard Shell, from the Wharton School of Business, illustrates how human beings emit five styles during a negotiation: compromising, competing, collaborating, accommodating, and avoiding. There is no right or wrong style; however, there is a right time to deploy them. For example, if you are in a meeting and the conversation doesn’t progress, meaning the participants are discussing the same issue over and over again, bring out your competitive style by stating, “We have discussed this topic at length. Based on our discussion, I recommend we move forward with option #2. Let’s focus the next five minutes on discussing why or why not to move forward with this option.” In this instance, you will have illustrated a competitive approach but in a very respectful and open way, ensuring others involved didn’t feel threatened or shut down.

#3.  Get into their world by asking the right questions 

Normally when we are in the thick of any negotiation we tend to focus on our issues and what we are going to say next. During your next negotiation focus on asking questions more than making statements. The best negotiators are the individuals who are able to ask the right questions. You might ask, “What are good questions?” For starters they must be open-ended and open-opportunity allowing the other party to expand further on a specific topic. (Example: “What do you think about the option brought to light by our colleague?”) Additionally, your questions need to offer some level of praise where the other party feels fully vested and valued in the final decision. This can be accomplished by asking, “Could we work on finalizing an agreement based on your ideas and expertise?”

#4.  Don’t judge.  Just listen and reframe

Let’s get rid of any pre-judgments we might have about the other person. Those pre-judgments act like buffers and don’t allow us to really listen to the facts and information being communicated. The next time you feel you might be pre-judging try writing down what the other person is communicating. Summarize what you wrote to the other person and then ask him/her, “Did I understand you correctly?” This approach will be well received and allow you to add to the information provided; hence moving you closer to generating options and solutions.

#5.  It is all about them

Don’t go into a negotiation thinking it is all about you. Quite the contrary – it is all about the other party. Make sure you communicate that to him/her by asking relevant questions and letting him/her know how much you value his/her opinion.

#6.  Know when to compromise

I always advise clients to identify at least three compromises they are willing to make before entering a negotiation. These compromises should be used when the discussion stalls. By offering a compromise you are opening a new avenue of discussion. Please keep in mind the concessions presented and refer back to them when you feel the other party is not reciprocating. It is okay to state, “I just want to summarize what has been discussed and review the concessions brought to the table. In order to keep the discussion moving, we need to ensure everyone here is fully vested by providing equal participation and suggestions.”

#7.  Ask for it

So many people go into a negotiation and forget their purpose. Don’t engage in a negotiation unless you know what you want from it. Make sure your communication focuses on what you are seeking from all parties and ensure the other parties do the same.

#8.  Know when to call it

It is okay to walk away from a negotiation when you feel your efforts aren’t being valued. But before walking, make sure you state your reasons for doing so.

#9.  Don’t take it personally

Remember that negotiation is part of everyday life; we win some and we lose some. Just make sure you learn from each negotiation and work on implementing the lessons learned in future discussions.

#10.  Write it down & sign it

How many times have you reached an agreement only to forget, a few months later, what exactly was agreed upon? If you take the time to negotiate, take the time to formally document the agreement reached.
Of course we all dread, and tire from constantly playing the negotiation game. But next time we find ourselves mired down with these feelings it would serve us well to recall the quote from negotiation expert Dr. Chester L. Karrass.
10 Easy Steps To Improve Your Negotiation Skills

What are your favorite negotiation skills that you learned about today?

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