You already have within you everything you need to be a successful negotiator. Even when “negotiator” isn’t your job title, or in your job description, you negotiate with others every day. If you’re generally happy with your life and your relationships, you’re probably good at negotiating. If you feel like a victim and that everyone takes advantage of you, even a slight improvement in your negotiation skills will start you on a new path of winning.
There are five basic steps of negotiation:
2. Exchange information
3. Plan your compromises
4. Consummate the agreement
5. Follow up and follow through
Negotiations can take as little as a minute or as long and years, depending on what’s being negotiated. Every successful negotiation is built upon the solid ground of preparation. Don’t trust the outcome of a negotiation to luck, fate, or your own ability to wing it. Prepare by first determining your intent.
What do you want to gain from the negotiation? The more specific you are about the end result you’d like to achieve, the more focused you can be during your conversations with others. What’s your bottom line?
Evaluate your current position. Where are you now? How far are you from the end result you’re seeking? What needs to happen to move forward? What are your strengths and weaknesses in negotiating with others? The more questions you ask yourself about your position, the stronger you’ll be during the actual negotiation.
Evaluate the other party’s position. Ask the same questions from the point of view of the other parties involved.
When planning your compromises, know what you have to offer and what you’re willing to give up. Some negotiators plan every negotiation to include a selection of bonuses they’re willing to add to the offer. They use these bonuses to enhance the value of their position without giving up key points they want to hang onto. It’s important to also know when to stop negotiating and walk away. Not every negotiation can be resolved into a win-win situation. As Kenny Rogers sang, “Know when to fold ‘em. Know when to walk away. Know when to run.”
Once all parties have agreed upon the term of the negotiation, put those terms in writing and get everyone involved to sign that agreement. Include in the agreement the next steps to be taken by each party and by when. Don’t risk allowing a good negotiation to end with weak follow through.
If you’re not already using these steps in your negotiations, start by practicing them with those closest to you. You might negotiate with your loved ones, including children, on performing tasks or setting goals through negotiation. As I mentioned before, you are negotiating every day that you engage with others. Just start being conscious of using effective negotiation practices so you’ll win more often and live a happier, more successful life.
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