Effective Negotiation Skills

What is Negotiation?


We are all negotiators. Right from the time we were children we have been negotiating a better deal for ourselves. How effective we have been has depended on the situation and the various factors involved in deciding the outcome of the negotiation.

Negotiations are inter-personal transactions and should not be considered as just a battle of wits and a platform to show-off our intellectual superiority by aiming for a Win-Lose outcome all the time. A negotiation is a platform for mutual co-operation and the aim is to get our adversaries to become our partners and collaborators by involving them in a problem solving session and not a “resolution of conflict”.

Negotiating is rather like taking a journey – up cannot predict the outcome until you have undertaken it. You may have planned a route only to find that the best way to get from here to there is not the planned one. Road works, traffic jams, fatigue, bored and fractious children may mean that you need to stop for a rest or take a detour. Similarly, with negotiating you need to prepare you strategy and tactics before entering a discussion, but there are not guarantees. You may even find that the planned approach is full of pitfalls and an alternative approach is needed in order to reach constructive agreement.

On the other hand, there are a number of basic principles or ‘unwritten rules’ which are common to all forms of negotiation and which you need to understand and pay attention to if you are to avoid costly mistakes.

What is Negotiation?

  • A resolution of conflict.
  • Implies an exchange of concessions.
  • There are basically two styles of negotiation – hard and soft styles.
  • The three outcomes of a negotiation – Destructive (Lose-Lose Situation), Competitive (Win-Lose Situations), Co-operative (Win-Win Situation).
  • Negotiations should be potentially beneficial for all parties.
  • Negotiation skills are not a cut and dry concept, they are subject to a number of variables some we can control while others are beyond our control. Negotiation skills can be developed only with practice and experience and even then you win-some and you lose-some.
  • Negotiations are a highly subjective concept because they depend a great deal on the impressions we can create in our counterparts in the negotiation. How they perceive us and what signals we are sending them. Negotiations are thus not only dependent on the knowledge base and the facts alone.

 When to Negotiate?

This is an important skill of the seasoned negotiator. The seasoned negotiator will not negotiate if he has no bargaining power. Negotiating under these circumstances can only result in a lose-win or lose-lose situation, both of which are not in our favor. The negotiation is the resolution of a perceived conflict of interest, thus the best policy is to solve the conflict without getting into a negotiation if possible. The manner we can solve conflict amicably is to be able to distinguish between the individual and the issue. The most common mistake made at the negotiating table is one when we argue positions and do not discuss the issues/interests under negotiation. The most seasoned negotiators are very often the best of friends outside the negotiating room. The negotiation is seen as a similar to a game of skill where the issues and interests of the party are under scrutiny, and the performance of the negotiator a result of studied practice. The outcome of the negotiation and the issues in question are by no means to be confused with the negotiator as an individual.

Key Principles and Mistakes

In recent years there has been an explosion of management books, many seeking to assure you that if you do this, or say that, you will be successful in negotiation. Although the guidelines provided in these books often provide valuable clues to improving your performance in negotiating, we think it is important to be wary of neat packages or formulas supposedly guaranteeing success in every dispute. There are too many variables, which affect the way people, perceive and respond to each other, predict precisely what to do in particular situation. Achieving a settlement through negotiation is not just a matter of applying a repertory of tactics and techniques in whatever conflict you are involved. In virtually all negotiations, you must adapt your strategy and behaviors fit the needs of the particular case.