Regardless of occupation, industry, or career path, negotiation will be necessary at some point for everyone. Whether fighting for a better raise or trying to come to a favorable compromise, it’ll be necessary to convince someone of the validity of your opinion.
Though many shudder at the thought of having to negotiate, the simple truth of it is that general communications skills go a long way. There’s no need to be masterfully charismatic, but confident body language, measured speaking, and eye contact all go a long way in negotiations and everyday interaction.
However, unlike typical social interactions, there’s something on the line when negotiating. And, if you’re invested in finding a good outcome for yourself, it always pays to be prepared. You wouldn’t submit a research paper or a business plan without being thorough and gaining all of the information you need, so why should negotiation be any different? Know going in what you wish to accomplish and get a sense of what the other party will say to you. You should be able to anticipate and address possible responses.
For instance, if you’re looking to secure a $5000 dollar raise, you may assume that the individuals responsible for your salary will be interested in knowing why you deserve the raise. By compiling a list of projects with qualitative and quantitative data proving your worth, you can sell them on the idea that the uptick is worth it.
The next thing to realize is that you may not get the outcome you want. Negotiations should be fluid, and being absolutely unyielding in what you want may result in a worse outcome than if you allow for your position to change. It’s a two-way conversation with give and take from both parties. If there are things you absolutely need to get out of your negotiation, stay firm on them but realize that you may need to give up on other things you want in order to achieve these goals.
Even then, preparation should involve some level of practice. Know the environment in which you’ll be negotiating; if you have a presentation to show to the other party, ensure that it’s well constructed and that you’ve rehearsed it. Prepare for contingencies, but make sure that everything you plan on saying is organized and well thought out.
When you finally sit down at the table, don’t be afraid to set the pace of the conversation. In our previous scenario, the employee gunning for a raise may want to aim high, establishing a number that the parties can then work down from. It’s a psychological phenomenon called the anchoring principle; if you set a number particularly high or low, other numbers seem more reasonable by comparison. Keep your figures realistic, but realize that this is a central part of negotiating.
Keep your demeanor calm and try to listen to arguments from the other side. If you give a pause before responding, others may try to fill the silence by offering up more information to clarify their points. And, above all else, remember that you’re talking to another person. Be civil, and try to walk out of the room on good terms, regardless of the outcome.
Listening is, oddly enough, one of the most important parts of negotiation. Pay attention to the arguments that other people use to try to persuade you. Take note of any that have factual merit and ignore any made using appeals to emotion. Give them the floor when they want it. Know when to push and when to yield.
Though negotiation may seem daunting, it’s simply a matter of having a more pointed conversation. Proper preparation, confidence, and strong communications skills are all critical to finding a happy medium—and an outcome that you can be satisfied with.