By Katya Juliet
Negotiation Skills and Interpersonal Relationships
It seems that there is a small misconception out there: that negotiation only takes place in business, while conflict in our personal relationships is merely having a conversation (interpersonal communication) and/or argument about an important issue. The truth is, negotiation is not a process limited to the business world — it is a unique kind of communication that is consistently present in our personal relationships and daily lives. While negotiation may come naturally to some individuals, for most, it is a skill – even an art – that has to be both learned and developed over time.
Consider how negotiation has been used over centuries. In the public eye, mostly we negotiate over large-scale disagreements; war, battles, trade agreements, power, boarders, money and so on. But just as often and only more privately, negotiation in our personal relationships is taking place. Negotiation is how one individual (or a group) is successful in achieving their goal over another’s and/or finding a mutually agreed upon outcome.
Maybe you and your partner are trying to decide how to spend (or save!) your savings, which school to send your children to, how to divide up daily family responsibilities, etc. Or perhaps you are trying to negotiate with your child over which college to attend. People are constantly negotiating with their families and partners in personal relationships and may not even realize it. By becoming more aware of this particular type of communication and choosing to further improve your negotiation skills, you will ultimately have more success in achieving your long-term desired outcomes and potentially avoid future conflict with the most important people in your life.
Learning negotiation skill-sets ahead of time will help you navigate through important communications much easier. But don’t worry, if you are already amidst conflict and need to find a resolution, it’s not too late. In this post, I am providing some suggestions which you can apply immediately to help further develop or refine your negotiation skills.
For starters, please note that negotiation is not simply about winning, losing or being right. In order to be an effective negotiator, you must employ great active listening skills, refine your non-verbal communication skills and be willing to truly consider both sides of the discussion with an open mind. If you allow your own bias to cloud facts or reality, then you are negatively impacting both yourself and the potential outcome, since part of the negotiation process includes revisions, clarity and compromise.
So, how can you personally improve and develop your negotiation skills?
Start by abiding to the following relational “negotiation basics” listed below:
- Negotiation, just like communication, is a two-way street; a give and take. If there are two opposing positions or interests, then a negotiation should take place.
- Conflict is inevitable. Don’t run and hide from it, resolve it!
- Separate your feelings and deeper emotions from the issue at hand.
- Remain calm and kind: no yelling, anger, name-calling, threats, or violent behavior, etc. (this is NOT negotiation!)
- Be flexible. Effective listening, revisions, compromise and seeking the best resolution possible are all part of the process.
- Focus on the end-goal, not the opposing sides or positions. In order to negotiate well, you are trying to resolve something. The end-goal is what is important, not who is right or wrong.
- Check your ego before beginning important communications. Ego will not benefit you in any way if your goal is to resolve a conflict of interest.
- Seek mutually agreeable solutions.
- Practice Empathy – put yourself in the other person’s shoes as best you can.
- Don’t give up! It is easy to get tired of talking and listening, but in order to come to a final negotiation, it may take several rounds of discussions. Be patient and stay dedicated.
The list above gives you a basic outline of negotiation ground-rules. But what are the best ways to work on improving your negotiation skills using the guidelines above? Start by putting your negotiation skills into practice regularly and take some time to prepare in advance before hand, whenever possible. There are books, videos, and even schools on negotiation you can look in to, to become more of an expert. But first, here are some suggestions on how to start practicing your negotiation skills right away:
- Role-play and practice your talking points with another (unbiased) individual who is not involved. This will help you identify potential strengths and weaknesses in your positioning.
- Write down the following:
- Your positions:
- I think, I feel, I need, I want, & maybe we could try __ (Fill in the blanks).
- Supporting arguments/talking points that uphold your positions and feelings.
- Your desired end-goal.
- Your positions:
- Focus on the end-goal and the benefits that the end-goal will have for everyone involved.
- Take turns to avoid interruptions. If needed, employ a talking stick, stone or object you can pass back and forth — the person who has the object is the speaker and the other, the listener.
- In ALL conversations, practice your ability to refrain from interrupting the other person. This will help during negotiations as it will become more of a communication habit overall through consistency.
- If you get completely stuck and neither party will budge – as long as the issue is something that can be attempted in multiple ways – consider a trial period of each position for a specific and equal amount of time. Then, each person can come back to the negotiation table with a list of what did or did not work well for them and continue towards finding common ground. (Obviously, this wouldn’t work for things of permanent nature, like deciding to get married, have a baby or start a business, etc.)
- Note: If you have a temper, practice responding in a calm fashion even if what is said gives you an emotional rise. This is important. The second strong emotion arises, especially anger, it will disrupt the entire negotiation process. Meaning, if you use anger and more threatening behavior to get what you want, you are no longer practicing negotiation and have moved into a realm of bullying and taking by force. Replace typical reactive behavior with empathetic phrases such as, “Ok, I understand that is how you are feeling,” or simply “I hear you.” People are looking for validation in most situations. When it is your turn to officially respond, hopefully some of the initial emotion has calmed, and you can try putting your frustration into productive statements that help reiterate why you feel differently. You can also try using a hypothetical situation or metaphor to help the other person understand your position more empathetically.
Whether you want to become a better negotiator in business or personal relationships, these tips can help you get started in refining and developing your skills. In today’s world, we are constantly inundated with messages (noise), distracting us from the ability to truly focus on what is most important or making it harder to stay on task. Because of this, it is important to focus on developing and improving our communication skills regularly. Also, the art of oral communication and negotiation, in particular, are ones that can easily fall behind, with such tech influence and focus in our daily lives – prompting us to use more written and visual communication, over oral and non-verbal skills in person, face-to-face.
I hope you have enjoyed reading this post and feel that these tips may help you in your next important negotiation. Comments are always welcome!
For additional support or consulting services, feel free to contact Katya Juliet anytime through her business website, Buzzword-Consulting. Buzzword Consulting offers affordable digital marketing services, consulting, copywriting & PR for small businesses, start-ups, entrepreneurs & non-profit Organizations.