(by Simone Lawrence)

Negotiating for something we really want and feel we deserve can be a tricky road to navigate as often we are emotionally invested in the topic, particularly if it is for something important for ourselves and our families. That long awaited salary rise, some extra holiday time, flexible working hours, a promotion or a new title, getting on a project team. This emotional attachment can open us up to bias that we may not be aware of and the possibility of demonstrating behaviors that may not serve the situation as well as intended.

Focus on the human

Negotiation will carry a different meaning to different people, some will thrive on the challenge and others will be quite intimidated. To be put in the spotlight and have an intense need to win can put people’s behaviour on edge, cloud better judgement and objective thinking.

While the tactical items of preparation for effective negotiation are key, such as building a solid case, being armed with facts and ready with alternatives to trade off, there is another side to negotiation that is often overlooked. The more human side. Time and effort put into to building a healthy human relationship form the basis of healthy negotiation.


Listen and build trust

Establishing a high level of rapport between the parties is necessary for any effective communication exchange to take place and to have a foundation of trust. To establish rapport and trust the ability to listen and be present needs to fully activated. The most effective negotiators will not do all the talking.


Give more than you take

Setting yourself up for successful negotiations is not a one time occurrence, it is a collective of how you operate overall. Develop a reputation as a giver not a taker. Consider how much asking you do versus how much value you provide in the wider context. Adam Grant writes in his book Give and Take “Being a taker is not a sustainable path to influence. When our audiences are sceptical, the more we try to dominate them the more they resist.” Switching our emphasis to be on effective listening and asking questions can be one of the best techniques for influence.


Widen your view

Take a step back from the situation and take a birds eye view. What do you notice from all the various perspectives in play. Consider what the other parties might be looking for and what the reasons for this could be. In this way, you can anticipate potential objections and be prepared with the rational to offset it. Take a moment to prepare your mind before the negotiation, not just the content. This will help you to stay calm throughout.

Match their style

Interpret how the other party prefers to communicate, for example are they a person of few words who likes things to get right to the point or are they the kind that likes to talk at length, are they fast or slow in their pace, what language do they use, what do you think their learning preference may be? Visual, audio or learn through doing. Sometimes this can be picked up through looking at the email exchange you have had with a different lens or even their whatsapp messages if you don’t get a chance to meet them first in person.

Keep it simple and don’t give up.

Finally and importantly keep the ask clear, keep it simple and not open to interpretation. Ask and simply stop talking, pause, take a breath and allow room for responses. If at first you don’t succeed, have another attempt at the appropriate time. Reflect on what worked well and what did not work so well the first time and adjust your approach. Just because you received a no at some point does not mean the answer is no forever. Circumstances change, people change and persistence can pay off.

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