Build bridges, don’t burn them: top tips for successful negotiations

As human beings we begin negotiating from the day we leave the room service of the womb. While the baby crying negotiation technique is fairly rough and tumble, it is often very successful in persuading long suffering parents to give us what we want – now!!!

From babyhood to teenage-hood and onwards we negotiate daily. It is, therefore, quite the conundrum that as adults many of us are intimidated by the mere concept of negotiation. This has spawned many a negotiation book, course and professional.

While much of what is written and taught is well worth the read and the lesson, here are 10 essential negotiation tips that I have distilled to assist you through any negotiation, no matter how simple or complex:

  1. Preparation is key: You cannot hope to get the best possible outcome from a negotiation if from the outset you do not know all the facts pertinent to the negotiation and the strengths and weaknesses of your negotiation position.
  2. Always have a strategy plan and framework which includes all outcomes that you would hope to achieve, even those outcomes that seem unattainable. (You can’t get what you don’t ask for.)
  3. When formulating your negotiation strategy always open your mind to a broad scope of ideas and solutions even if you are going to discard them along the way. No solution is too silly to consider.
  4. At the outset be clear when to walk away from the negotiation table. As Kenny Rogers sang, “You need to know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em, know when to walk away and know when to run.
  5. Negotiation does not always mean having to compromise. Sometimes you can persuade the other party that your required outcome would be beneficial to them as well.
  6. Actively listen to what the other person has to say and try to understand their perspective. As Nelson Mandela stated, “If you are negotiating you must do so in a spirit of reconciliation, not from the point of view of issuing ultimatums.”
  7. Always be flexible and willing to take on board differing ideas from the other side. Sometimes those ideas may well assist in meeting your desired outcomes.
  8. Do not take anything personally. Although this can be difficult, if we put aside emotions and finger pointing we are better able to formulate ideas and opportunities objectively.
  9. When you reach a deadlock do not give up immediately. Take time out away from the negotiation whether for an hour, a day, a week or even a month. The break can often provide the space you need to come up with a solution to break the dead lock.
  10. A successful negotiation can be judged on whether it produces a sustainable agreement which improves, or at least does not damage, the relationship between the parties. Remember even if you are feeling aggrieved and angry, you may well have to negotiate with the other person again sometime in the future or at least meet them in other scenarios. In most cases, although the outcome of the negotiation may seem to be one of the most important issues you have to deal with today, in three years’ time this will be overtaken by other issues and life experiences. Do what you have to do to achieve a sustainable and agreeable outcome and then move on.