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Negotiate Like a Pro

Negotiation skills might not bring you everything you want in life, but you can increase your odds of success. To up your game, try a relationship-driven approach for an outcome that helps everyone, says a 2015 study in Harvard’s Negotiation Journal.

At work or beyond, navigate your next negotiation—and forge a reputation for fairness—with tips from the study’s authors: Katie A. Liljenquist and Kristen Bell DeTienne from the Marriott School, and M-C Ingerson from San Jose State University.

1. Weighty Words

Watch your words. Avoid the conjunction but, a word that negates progress, and opt instead for and. Weave in collective pronouns like we and us. Also, be careful with the term negotiation—it can arouse defenses. Instead, say conversation or problem-solving. “Those are small things that set the stage but really make a profound difference in how people interact,” says Liljenquist, adjunct professor of organizational leadership and strategy.

2. Due Diligence

“The best negotiators are not the most credentialed. The best negotiators are those who do their homework,” says Ingerson, professor of management and the study’s lead author. Understanding beforehand what each party stands to gain or lose not only prepares you to bring your A game but shows respect for everyone else at the table.

3. Long View

Don’t just focus on what you want from a negotiation—move forward instead with the goal to advance relationships. “Always assume that you’re going to negotiate with someone again in the future and that this is an opportunity to build a long-term relationship, not just claim resources,” says Liljenquist.

4. Hear, Hear

“The best negotiators use their ears more than their mouths,” Liljenquist says. “You want to learn all you can about the other side because that will provide the information you need to meet their needs and generate an agreement that’s going to be sustainable in the long run.” Start by developing your questioning skills.

5. Menu, Please

As you seek a solution, extend options—ideally

two that meet your needs. “Think about the child who won’t eat her dinner,” Liljenquist says. “If you say, ‘You’ve got to finish all of it,’ that’s an ultimatum. Instead, say, ‘I know you’re feeling full, so you can choose to finish either the peas or the carrots.’ Options signal flexibility on your part.”

6. Trust or Bust

“If people don’t trust you, it doesn’t matter what you say or do during the negotiation. They probably won’t open up and be honest with you,” says DeTienne, a professor of organizational leadership and strategy. Build trust by understanding motives; if someone argues for a higher salary, for example, try to discover why.

7. Roll With It

Don’t be afraid to let the negotiation be organic or to take time for small talk. “If the other party wants to jump right in, fine. If you’re the one taking the lead, get to know the other person a bit,” Ingerson says. By focusing on the other party and their needs as the conversation unfolds, you inspire creativity and collaboration on both sides.

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Article written by Bremen Leak

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