I was working through the topic of successful negotiation the other day with a ‘coachee’ and lots of things came up that I thought could be useful to my blog fans! Those of you with young children may also find this useful if you think about how it can be adapted to suit your situation as negotiation plays such a large part of parenting!
People often struggle with the mechanics of ‘negotiation’. Many fear that their attempt will lead to failure or further conflict. Let’s be clear, what do we mean by negotiation? The dictionary definitions speak of bringing something about through discussion, pulling something off (like a contract for example). Other definitions speak of trying to reach an agreement or compromise by discussion. It seems that ‘discussion’ is the key point around a subject that all parties see as some kind of hurdle – we even use it to describe someone finding their way through or over an obstacle, for example ‘the rider successfully negotiated the jumps’.
The key skills required to be a successful negotiator are intelligent questioning, active listening and accurate reflecting (clarifying). It’s really important that all parties are on the same page in terms of their understanding of the hurdle. Negotiation won’t work if your view of the problem is substantially misunderstood by the other party and vice versa, you either won’t reach any resolution or you will reach a resolution that is misinterpreted and will therefore create bigger problems later on.
Meeting to listen to how everyone sees the issue and articulating your own view, making accurate notes and feeding back will help to set you off in the right direction. At this stage it is of no consequence whether you agree or disagree with the other party’s view, you just need to understand it. You will do this if you listen carefully and accurately reflect your understanding. This exercise may help to illuminate areas that you already have in common with the other party and it’s a positive step to acknowledge this to foster a ‘we can do this’ attitude.
Once both sides have a clear understanding of the hurdle, it’s time to begin thinking about how success can be achieved. What are the benefits and costs of particular strategies? To be successful at presenting different options to achieve consensus, you do need to have a good knowledge of the issue, the more knowledge you have, the more options you will be able to see. So, doing some thorough preparation is essential for successful negotiation.
Be clear about what you can compromise or change and don’t be afraid to ask the other party to be prepared to do likewise. Communicating your ideas effectively is a skill and one that some people find difficult, particularly if the other party seems angry or frustrated, or simply refusing to budge! We’ll look next time at a model of communication that can be very helpful in these situations.