A Beginner’s Guide to Basic Negotiation

© Performance Management Consultants

Most people aren’t born negotiators. Negotiating involves knowing how to self-advocate, how to stand your ground, and when to walk away. Top-notch negotiation skills require training, practice, and feedback.

Don’t fly by the seat of your pants. Instead, do your research and be prepared. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to approach your next negotiation.

Understand What You’re Going to Ask

You have a meeting with upper management and a cooperating agency. As part of that meeting, you’ll be discussing project scope. You’ll have to offer your supervisors and the cooperating agency a clear explanation of what your team needs. To do that, you’ll need to put together an outline that includes a detailed list of resources your team will use to execute your project on time.

You know you’ll need to advocate for each item on the list. Before you go into any kind of negotiation, know exactly what you’re hoping to get out of your ask, why you need that ask to be fulfilled, and how the other party will benefit from giving it to you.

Find Out How Realistic Your Ask Is

Let’s say you have to navigate a potentially hostile negotiation between two agencies. You’re representing one side, and your side needs to get a significant amount of resources from the other side. Is the amount you’re asking a realistic sum? Is the timing of your ask appropriate?

To actually win this negotiation, you should be able to answer “yes” to both of these questions. It’s not worth negotiating for resources the other side doesn’t have. It’s also not worth negotiating for resources the other side will have, but doesn’t yet possess. If you jump the gun and start talking to them, you risk spoiling your efforts before the time is right.

Build Your Self-Confidence and Demonstrate it with Verbal and Nonverbal Cues

In one of the most popular TED Talks, social psychologist Amy Cuddy describes how power poses can actually change your mindset. She recommends practicing one of these confidence-building postures before you go into a meeting, speak publicly, or enter negotiations.

For example, try standing with your arms outstretched, reaching above your head in a V-formation and lifting up your chin, for two minutes. This kind of power posture can affect hormones in both men and women — testosterone is increased, making you feel more in charge, and cortisol is decreased, making you feel less stressed.

Self-confidence is arguably the most important negotiation tactic. Without it, you appear timid and, potentially, fearful. The other people in your negotiation will sense that uneasiness, and they’ll assert themselves more aggressively.

Speak confidently and present yourself confidently from start to finish. Self-assuredness comes to people in different ways. For some, it’s the result of knowing the facts and sticking to them. For others, it’s the result of deep, unbridled passion. However you tap into your sense of confidence, do so before your negotiation and maintain that power throughout.

Don’t Bluff – Be Ready to Walk Away

Effective negotiators don’t bluff. They make their case, specifically outlining their demands. They listen to the other side’s counter-offer, weighing each option presented. Then, depending on the circumstances involved, they compromise. If they’re unwilling to compromise for good reason, then they’re also willing to walk away from the negotiation.

Keep Your Cool, Even if Talks Get Heated

Anger isn’t a strength; it’s a weakness. No matter how tense your negotiations get, stay calm and collected. Don’t respond to pressure from the other party. Their sense of urgency, intensity, disgust, or aloofness is simply a tactic to throw you off your game. Remind yourself that their actions aren’t personal. It’s just business.

Make sure you’re relaxed before you go into a negotiation. Go running, meditate, do yoga, or whatever helps you stay calm. It’ll help you be less reactionary.

Brush Up on Your Negotiation Techniques

Don’t let sub-par negotiation tactics prevent you from being effective in the workplace. With a little bit of continuing education, you can improve how you communicate and self-advocate with co-workers, supervisors, and anyone else.

Expand on your negotiation skills by enrolling in our Powerful Negotiation Skills course in Ottawa, or inquire about Group Training at your location for teams of five or more. Contact us today at 613-234-2020 for more information (extension 18 for public courses or extension 21 for group training).

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