Negotiation is a part of daily life, but it’s not always easy to do it effectively. You negotiate when you buy a car, when you work out a conflict with a family member, or when you’re contacting customer support. And of course, you negotiate when you’re doing your job.
There are a lot of barriers to effective negotiation, like poor communication, feeling like there are no good options, conflict between counterparts, or the negative emotions that might be paired with negotiating on a particularly stressful matter or with individuals you might not have a good relationship with.
It’s important to learn how to negotiate while effectively navigating all the obstacles that might occur. With the right negotiation skills training it’s possible to improve negotiation skills and learn how to negotiate effectively in particularly difficult scenarios. The following negotiation training concepts are among the most important to ensure long-term success for managers and their team.
You should start with a foundation of best practices in negotiation
An ideal negotiation is a win-win negotiation for all. A win-win negotiation is exactly what it sounds like– it’s when both parties have achieved their goals and feel good about the value created together.
It’s always best when you and your counterpart both walk away feeling successful, and there are some key skills that can increase the likelihood of this outcome. Some of these skills include:
- Learning communication techniques.
- Acknowledging your counterpart’s hard bargaining.
- Understanding how to set and manage expectations.
- Ensuring your counterpart feels listened to.
- Making sure your counterpart feels as though they’ve achieved gains through a deal.
- Being flexible and rational.
- Setting goals in advance.
- Ensuring you don’t overpromise.
- Playing down your own gains.
- Understanding how to de-escalate situations when conflict arises.
Many of these skills are achieved through learning, preparing, practising, and getting feedback on performance. It’s important to understand what good outcomes look like and how to achieve them. This can be done through actively learning about negotiation, practising, and learning from mistakes. Reputable publications like the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School publish many resources on improving skills, so you always have the opportunity to polish up negotiation skills.
Play negotiation games and provide good and bad negotiation examples to learn from
Practising negotiation role play scenarios and reading case studies or vignettes on specific types of negotiations can be incredibly useful. They can put ideas into context and give individuals within your organisation the opportunity to get used to implementing negotiation best practices. Analysing and discussing widely known negotiation mistakes can help your employees understand how to avoid common pitfalls.
Negotiation games and role play situations can also put some of these learnings into practice. One of the best ways to learn is by doing, and it’s also a great way to assuage fears of going into difficult negotiation meetings and learn how to think rationally despite stressful situations or conflicts.
Learn when to use specific negotiation skills in challenging situations
Some of the trickiest situations to handle within a negotiation include misunderstandings, conflict, and having a negotiation conversation take an unexpected turn. It’s difficult to think quickly in the moment in order to keep a conversation from going sour or losing out on the gains you expected. And with negotiations taking place face-to-face, via video call, over the phone, and via email, there are unique challenges to consider with each of these potential scenarios.
Email negotiations can be among the most challenging because of the inability to use nonverbal communication and convey tone. However, unlike face-to-face negotiating and conversations over the phone, email negotiation provides the opportunity to take a step back to consider how to respond with the luxury of a bit more time.
There are different negotiation strategies or conflict resolution skills that can be used in specific situations. Having a solid foundation in conflict resolution can make a large difference in outcomes and the ability to take charge of your emotions during difficult conversations.
Don’t let emotions get in the way of business negotiation skills
There are a lot of feelings that might come up during negotiation, many of which are extremely unpleasant. When fight or flight kicks in, you might feel angry, sweaty, worried, or like there is no possibility for a positive outcome. But you don’t have to let your emotions get the best of you. There are ways to keep in control and even use your emotions to your advantage. You can also learn tactics to help diffuse emotions your negotiation counterpart might be feeling.
Having a good understanding of the emotions you and the other party might experience, practising scenarios in which emotions might be heightened, and learning de-escalation techniques are all things that can help you keep on track and avoid poor outcomes for everyone involved.
Learn how to negotiate by keeping score
Receiving a tangible, quantifiable score during negotiation games and role play can help identify weak spots and provide benchmarks for improvement. These scores can also help to boost the confidence of individuals working at your organisation. Although numbers can’t tell us everything, keeping score during negotiation training assessments can support growth regarding specific hard skills and improve emotional intelligence as well.
It’s important to understand that people are more than just numbers. Getting assessed during a negotiation game might not be truly indicative of real-life performance. Practice makes perfect and incorporating some level of assessment during negotiation games can be a valuable component of an overall negotiation course.
Improve negotiation skills by focusing on relationships and rapport
Building rapport, trust, and relationships are helpful in negotiation. Engaging in pleasant conversation or “small talk” can put others at ease and make individuals act more cooperatively. We all want to believe we are getting a good deal and it’s easier to be sure of that when you have a solid relationship with your negotiation partners.
It’s not always best to get straight to business. Depending on the situation, a short phone call or business lunch before a negotiation might set you off on the right foot and make the process more pleasant and comfortable for everyone involved. Practising building rapport in a genuine way through role play scenarios is another useful activity to incorporate into training.
Choose the right negotiation skills workshop or negotiating course to make sure the information sticks
There are a lot of negotiation skills training, courses, and workshops available to choose from. Many of them incorporate all the key negotiation skills training for organisations, but not all the courses available provide long-term results. Every year, organisations invest heavily in negotiation training that doesn’t pay off because the courses don’t focus on the most important factor: making sure the concepts stick. If your organisation doesn’t have the opportunity for continuous learning, it’s easy to fall into old patterns and revert to ineffective negotiation. It’s vital to make sure everyone is on board to make positive changes for long-term success for the organisation.
We cover many key negotiation skills and strategies through exercises, coaching, assessments, and peer-to-peer review within our Getting to Yes negotiation training course. To find out more about the Getting to Yes negotiations skills course, follow the link to learn about the specific skills and knowledge gained.