Early in my career, a good friend of mine gave me a piece of valuable advice. He said: “in life, you don’t get what you deserve, you get what you negotiated for”. Indeed, he was masterful in negotiation, and over time I developed that skill myself.
For most people negotiation is a stressful and uncomfortable situation. I believe that it primarily stems from the fact that we basically don’t like disagreements and confrontations. Additionally, we are afraid that we might lose something in the course of the negotiation.
And yet, negotiations are almost unavoidable. Whether we want to or not we find ourselves in negotiations in all aspects of our lives. We negotiate with our customers, suppliers, employees, spouses, kids, and others.
Therefore, it seems imperative to me that we need to become more comfortable, and eventually better at it. As a result, we will be able to achieve our objectives in these encounters.
There are some very good books and courses on negotiations, and how to develop this critical skill. I personally liked “Getting to Yes” by Roger Fisher, William L. Ury, Bruce Patton, and “Getting Past No” by William L. Ury. For those who don’t have time to read a book, I can offer the following four simple tips:
Be clear on what you want to achieve in the negotiation. This is the most important element in a successful negotiation. Be clear on what is truly important to you, and what is less, and you’re even willing to give up (or at least be flexible on). Not everything is a deal breaker.
Clarify and understand what the other party wants. To use one of Dr. Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits: seek first to understand, then to be understood. It will help set the stage for a more constructive and less confrontational negotiation. Also, you will better understand the expectations of the other party. This will help you develop a win-win proposal.
Know your BATNA. Before you start negotiating, understand what are your real alternatives. Furthermore, what is your best alternative if the negotiation fails and you can’t reach an agreement. That’s your Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement.
Know when to stop. When you get what you really want, stop negotiating and seal the deal. It’s time to move from negotiation to execution.
And yet, the most important thing is to come to a negotiation with the right mindset. This is not a war, nor is it a high-stakes, winner takes all, game. Most likely you’re not negotiating the nuclear disarmament of Iran or North Korea. It’s an agreement between two parties. And for both sides to agree, they need to feel that they got what they really wanted. That should be the guiding principle to your discussions.
Finally, don’t forget, you don’t have to agree. If you cannot achieve a win-win agreement, as it sometimes happens, you can simply walk away and try again when the conditions are right. And yet, that requires that you conduct the entire process with mutual respect, fairness, and integrity.
Good luck with your next negotiation.