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Negotiating 101

Most people think of negotiating as a win/lose event that requires fighting for what they want and beating or bowing to their opponents. In reality, a successful negotiation is a communication process whereby both parties strive for a mutually satisfying result. A good negotiator doesn’t want a defeated opponent seeking revenge at a later date. He knows win/win negotiations build relationships for the long haul.

All of us must be prepared to negotiate for what we want. Below are some tips for negotiating effectively throughout your career:

Negotiating is a process, not an event.

  • Successful professionals take responsibility for what they want and how to achieve it. They recognize that partnering with management, colleagues and employees is a smart career strategy.

  • If you want your manager solidly in your corner, schedule regular conferences with him to:

  •  Document your achievements

  •  Discuss ways to improve your performance

  •  Create goals and actions plans

  •  Compare planned versus actual results

  •  And ask for a mentor’s advice.

  • When a fire flares, confront it immediately yourself or call for reinforcements before it becomes four alarm.

  • Whether or not you like all the members on your team, give 100% and refrain from disparaging any fellow players.

  • Explain to your management, peers and subordinates what you need from them. While your needs may be intuitively obvious to you, your associates aren’t mind readers.

Negotiation requires preparation. Spontaneity is strictly for the pros.

Negotiating doesn’t come easily to most of us. To make the most of your negotiations, answer these questions ahead of time:

  • What specific outcome do I hope to achieve?

  • What are several options I would find acceptable?

  • How will these options benefit the other negotiating parties and their constituents?

  • What objections might they have to my suggestions? How can I alleviate their concerns?

  • How much leverage do I have?  Am I bargaining from a position of strength or weakness?

  • How might external variables such as timing, politics, traditions, opponent’s negotiating style and economic conditions affect my argument? Which ones can I use to bolster my case?

When you are sitting across the negotiating table, keep these key points in mind.

A negotiating session can be both stressful and emotional. You will be much more likely to achieve a successful outcome and build respect and collegiality with your fellow negotiators if you:

  • Ask for 100% of what you want, if you think it’s a genuinely fair request.

  • Listen carefully to what the other parties are saying. They may have excellent suggestions you haven’t considered.

  • Separate opinions from fact. Don’t let your perceptions dictate your reality.

  • Maintain your  perspective. This conversation may be important, but it isn’t life or death.

  • Avoid ultimatums unless you fully intend to act upon them. Bluffing may be a great poker strategy, but it’s a deadly negotiating ploy.

  • Always work for a win/win solution. Otherwise you may win the battle, but lose the war.


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