“In business as in life, you don't get what you deserve, you get what you negotiate,” according to negotiations guru Chester L. Karrass.
Whether you are negotiating compensation for a new job, requesting a raise or new responsibilities, or cinching a deal for your current company, you’ll get better results if you master the art and the skill of negotiating.
My husband took the Chester Karrass course years ago and I swear he wins every one of our “negotiations!” Perhaps by studying these tips myself I’ll improve my outcome.
negotiating tipsDo your homework. Learn as much as you can about the other person’s needs, challenges, and pressures. Think ahead to what will happen if they do make the deal or don’t make the deal with you. The more you know, the more you can tap into the other party’s desires and fears to give yourself a negotiating advantage.
Understand the value you bring. Don’t underestimate yourself! Ahead of time, pull together facts and figures that support your position, and use these factual data to reinforce your bargaining position.
Begin with an open mind. Don’t assume you know what the other party wants, needs, or is willing to settle for. Listen before you speak, and appreciate that silence can be your best friend in a negotiation. It gives you time to think and it makes the other party wonder what you are thinking! Your silence may prompt your opponent to rush in with a counter-offer or additional information that can help you achieve your negotiating goals.
Attack issues, not people. Particularly in an environment when you will continue to work with the other party, it’s essential to keep the discussion professional and focused on the issues. What’s more, you’ll never reach consensus if you can’t come to agreement on the fundamental issue. So keep your focus on what’s really at stake and don’t veer into personal attacks or emotional escalation just because you disagree on an issue.
If you can’t agree, put the issue aside and negotiate smaller items. Rather than calling a halt to the negotiations because you don’t agree on a key issue, keep talking. Bring forth other issues, and make some compromises in areas that are less important to you. The idea is to keep a cordial conversation going and to make some progress. No one wants to have to start a negotiation all over again, so the more you can resolve, the less likely the talks will stall.
Define the issue. You want to be sure that you’re not negotiating something different than the other party is negotiating! Particularly if you disagree on a key point, step back and clarify, define, and reach agreement on what the issue actually is.
Use neutral language. Language can stir up emotions, and in a negotiation it’s wise to keep emotions—both yours and your opponent’s—under control. So avoid using emotion-laden language such as “I need,” “You always,” “You never,” “I hate,” and so forth.
In a salary negotiation, for example, rather than saying, “I need to make $X,” or “I deserve $X,” say, “My research tells me that fair market value for this position is $X.” You’ve immediately turned the issue from personal to neutral—it’s just business.
Don’t negotiate against yourself. After you’ve put out a proposal, wait to hear what the other party says before saying anything further. Don’t take silence as disagreement, and don’t rush to clarify, explain, or—worst of all!—retract. Wait to hear the response and go forward from there.
Negotiate in person whenever possible. Confrontation can be uncomfortable—and as humans, we are very good at avoiding things that are uncomfortable! It can feel safer to hold a discussion by email or to leave voice messages when you know the other person is not there. But it is all too easy to misconstrue messages, and true consensus cannot be reached without discussion.
Don’t rush. If you go into negotiations wanting to “get it over with” as quickly as possible, you are more likely to grant concessions and cave in to demands. Don’t buy into the other party’s sense of urgency, either. Give it all the time it takes to avoid making quick, bad decisions.
Put it in writing. At the conclusion of your negotiation, write down what you’ve agreed on and have the other party initial it. You want to avoid misunderstandings or about-faces. You don’t have to get all lawyer-like about it, though—simply say, “Let me jot down what we’ve agreed to so that we both have a record of all the details.”
Know your bottom line and be willing to walk away. Recognize that you always have other options—in fact, go into the negotiation with a Plan B in mind! A bad deal will leave you feeling resentful, angry, and unmotivated to do your best work for the other party, whether that's a boss, a customer, or a loved one.


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