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Enhancing Negotiation Skills
Steven P. Cohen
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“Enhancing your negotiating skills is an important element of personal development.”

Enhancing your negotiating skills is an important element of personal development. Helping your colleagues and staff to negotiate better will save time, reduce stress and increase productivity. The changing cast of stakeholders means that successfully negotiating the minefields in the business world could be crucial to your own health and success.

Steven discusses his Pillars of Negotiational Wisdom –

Be conscious of the difference between positions and interests. If you can figure out why you want something - and why others want their outcome - then you’re looking at interests. Interests are the building blocks of lasting agreements.

Be creative. Anyone can do things the same old way. Using brainstorming techniques, listening to outlandish proposals and opening up to unanticipated possibilities expands agreement opportunities. If you respond with new ideas and do the unexpected, you can open doors to far greater gains than when you behave predictably. Creativity can make everyone look good.

Be fair. If people feel a process is fair, they’re more likely to make real commitments and less likely to walk away planning ways to wriggle out of the agreement. Sometimes things are helped when a neutral, external authority is used to measure fairness.

Be prepared to commit. You shouldn’t make a commitment unless you can fulfil it. Commitment isn’t likely to result unless all parties feel the process has been fair.

Be an active listener. Communication takes place when information passes from a source to a receiver. If you spend all of your listening time planning how to zing the other party, then, when they finally stop talking, you haven’t heard them. Focus on what others say, both on their words and their underlying meaning. This will help you understand the interests upon which agreement can be based. When your response makes it clear that you’ve really been listening (and the other party gets over the initial shock), they, too, may be more prepared to listen.

Active listening can change the rules of the game and raise the level of civility in the negotiation.

Be conscious of the importance of the relationship. Most of your negotiation is with repeaters (people you run across time after time such as your spouse and kids). The same is true for borrowers, directors and representatives of affiliated institutions. If you understand the relative priority of the relationship, it can be easier to know when giving on a particular point may yield short-term costs but long-term gains.

Be aware of BATNAs. BATNA stands for the Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement. Your BATNA is the situation you want to improve by negotiating with a given party or set of parties. If you can improve things on your own, you don’t need to negotiate. But BATNA is not your bottom line. It’s a measure of the relative value of negotiating a particular issue with a particular party - or whether you can fall back on better alternatives. Be prepared. In order to negotiate effectively, efficiently and wisely, it’s crucial to prepare. Your job isn’t to outline a perfect, total solution; that would be a positional approach. Preparation means studying the interests and BATNAs of every possible party. It means understanding the short- and long-term consequences you use and the substantive results you pursue. Doing your homework can save a lot of time.

Steven P. Cohen teaches at the University of New Hampshire and at European business schools - Group Hautes Études Commerciales, École Supérieure des Sciences Commerciales d’Angers and the Open University. Steven runs a training firm called The Negotiation Skills Company. The company offers advice on its web site at http://www.negotiationskills.com

© Copyright The Negotiation Skills Company, Inc., Pride’s Crossing, MA 01965, USA



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