We are all negotiators, it’s a fact of life. Whether we want to discuss a pay rise with our boss, bargain the price of a house with a real estate agent or discuss personal relationship issues or even where to go for dinner with our friends, spouse or children, negotiation is involved.
As lawyers negotiation skills are integral to our role and may include “discussions” with our colleagues, managers, opposing lawyers, in court, at mediations and with anyone with whom we interact with during the day to reach settlement of any issue.
What Is Negotiation?
It’s a basic means to get what you want from others, consisting of back-forth communication with the focus on reaching an agreement. Its used as a tool to handle differences.
Whats The Most Effective Type Of Negotiation?
Soft: reaches agreement by making concessions very easily to avoid conflict and person is often exploited
Hard: sees any situation as a contest of wills and wants to win (at all costs) and in the process responds in a very hard and harsh manner, which harms the relationship with the other side and accomplishes little by way of negotiation.
Principled negotiation: decide issues on their merits, looking for mutual gains wherever possible and where interests conflict the result be based upon some independent fair standard.
Firstly, remember that all negotiators are humans with emotions, deeply held values, different backgrounds and viewpoints and are often unpredictable due to cognitive biases, perceptions & egos, which are easily threatened. Failing to deal with others sensitively as human beings can spell disaster for any negotiation. Principled negotiation is the most effective method.
In the book “Getting to Yes, Negotiating an Agreement Without Giving In” it provides a number of valuable tips and I have included the following 10, which will assist you, as a negotiator (human) achieve an edge in your negotiation skills:
- Base the negotiation relationship on mutually understood perceptions, which can only be achieved by explicit and open discussion
- Have clear two way communication, with the expectation that will almost always hear something different to what was said. Listen actively and acknowledge what is being said.
- Be forward looking with a purposive approach
- Try to understand the other sides thinking as a person’s “thinking” is often the source of conflict
- Put yourself in other sides shoes, which requires not only seeing the merits of your own case but also that of your opponent
- Don’t blame the other side for your problem. Blaming is usually counterproductive. Distinguish the problem from the person with whom you are talking.
- Consider the role of identity, as a perceived threat to a person’s identity by pointing out inevitable failings and inconsistencies to their self image and self respect, will automatically drive strong emotion.
- All the other side to let off steam which is an effective way to deal with a persons anger, frustration and other negative emotions, which may make it easier to have a rational discussion later.
- Speak to be understood, its not a debate or a trial, its like two judges trying to reach agreement on how to decide a case. Treat your opponent like a fellow judge, so there is no room for name calling, blaming or raised voices.
- Build a working relationship before the negotiation begins. Don’t view negotiators as adversaries rather as partners in a hard headed, side by side situation, in an attempt to reach a fair agreement which is advantageous to each party.
Negotiation skills are learned and honed, with life, experience, knowledge and practice. I often see the “hard approach” employed by lawyers, as ifs the only way to negotiate or mediate. However, there are other more effective ways to negotiate with people, to reach a mutually beneficial result. That concept is of itself worthy of consideration and investigation, to enable a negotiator gain an advantage, and that advantage may be to have knowledge of the basics for effective negotiation.
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