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Life is a series of negotiations, whether it’s trying to persuade three-year-olds to eat their veggies before they go to a party, asking your boss for leave at the busiest time of year, or handling a major crisis with all the bosses in the boardroom.
And your negotiation skills can make the difference between a good outcome and a bad one.
Where people struggle most often is in their basic belief about what negotiation is. The majority think it’s about tricks and tactics, about beating the other person. In fact, it’s about connecting – you don’t have to “win”. It’s about two people, with different points of view, working out a solution.
And if they’re really clever and creative about their approach to the negotiation, they may be able to make the solution much bigger than when it appears at the outset.
Most programmes that teach negotiation skills tell you what to do via harsh tactics. In short, they teach you how to play games. But that’s a very small part of negotiation. We recommend focusing on brushing up on your interpersonal skills, learning how to understand others, and how to connect with the person with whom you are negotiating.
Negotiating is not about fighting; it’s about a healthy adversarial process. And it should be a positive process, not a negative one.
Many people who attend our training sessions arrive with the attitude of, “I know what this is all about. You have to play games to gain an advantage.” Soon, however, they change their tune, because Avocado Vision has a novel approach.
It’s pointless to create a winner and a loser. After all, it’s not as if you’re never going to see that person again – you have an ongoing relationship to maintain. So you might win today, but at what cost?
We prefer the approach of “let’s figure it out together”. Here are some tips for good negotiation, whether with your toddler or boss:
Know yourself – what are you really good at? But also know where your weaknesses lie: a clear understanding of your strong and weak points will help you guard against manipulation from your adversary.
Know who you’re dealing with – do your homework about the people with whom you will be negotiating. But also learn to recognise different personalities and approaches from their verbal, vocal and visual cues, and make accurate judgements about them on the spot.
Know what you want – be clear about what you want to achieve, and at what point you cannot make any further concessions. A lack of clarity on your part can mean you agree to things that make the deal no longer worthwhile for you.
Anticipate what the other party might want – there’s no replacement for doing your homework well here.
Work the relationship – traditional negotiation creates adversaries. It takes strength of character and skill to keep relationships intact while working through conflict in negotiation.
Be prepared to co-create – bringing different parties to the table also brings different points of view: an openness to possibility can give birth to all sorts of new, creative approaches.
And hey, sometimes it’s okay to lose, as it may buy you some credit for later. You’ll get more out of life if you seek co-operation with people.
Avocado Vision offers negotiation programmes where we help companies improve their day-to-day negotiation skills.
It’s important to remember, the implication that the tough guys win is really not accurate at all. They simply don’t own up when they’ve lost. Having good negotiation skills really doesn’t mean you have to play games with people. You can negotiate well and still emerge as the good guy.
l Jules Newton is CEO of Avocado Vision. Contact it on 011 614 0206.