How Learning to Negotiate Can Improve Your Life
Everyone has that coworker, friend, or family member who knows how to negotiate. They’re friends with everyone, are able to see things from others’ perspectives, know how to actively listen to those around them, and manage to both get what they want and make others happy.
While some people are born that way, others have to learn the skill. If you struggle with negotiating you may want to take some time to hone those diplomatic abilities in order to help you achieve more of your goals in both your personal and professional lives.
How Negotiating Can Improve Your Life
It’s tempting to look at negotiating as something reserved for executives pretentiously hammering out contracts in highfalutin workspaces. However, the ability to negotiate can actually help you in a variety of different areas in life, for instance:
- As an employee, the ability to negotiate can help you effectively voice your thoughts, opinions, needs, and even wants to coworkers and bosses alike.
- As a friend, the ability to negotiate can enable you to mediate disagreement and see situations from multiple angles.
- As a spouse, the ability to negotiate allows you to compromise and grow in areas such as cohabitation and other life-sharing behaviors.
- As a parent, the ability to negotiate can help you pick your battles and raise your children with both love and firmness.
There are many other examples that can be found. The point is, the ability to negotiate shouldn’t be written off as something for the high-up muckety-mucks who run Fortune 500 businesses. It’s a bonafide soft skill that can yield positive results throughout all areas of your life.
How to Improve Your Negotiation Skills
If you’re nodding your head in agreement, but you simply don’t know where to start, here are some tips and tricks to help you become a better negotiator. Some focus on structure and preparation while others enable you to better “go with the flow” when you’re in the midst of a high-pressure conversation.
Equip Your Negotiation Tool Belt
While a lot of the negotiation game is fluid and requires real-time reactions, it’s still important to equip yourself beforehand with a few negotiation tools that you can utilize. This isn’t referring to hard-nosed methods meant to outsmart or manipulate an opponent. There are several useful-yet-considerate negotiation tactics and tools that you can utilize with complete sincerity and respect for the other parties involved, such as:
- Choosing a quiet place to conduct the negotiation. Your environment can have a significant effect on your mental health. A cluttered kitchen or high-traffic bull-pen, for instance, may not be the best place to conduct a rational conversation. Always choose your negotiating environment with care, and make sure that it particularly works in your favor to ensure that you can negotiate at the top of your game.
- Learning to actively listen to others. If you can’t truly hear what others are saying, it will stifle your ability to find a middle ground that makes everyone happy.
- Getting comfortable leading conversations. Respectful yet confident leading is a critical aspect of proper emotional intelligence and can make or break a negotiation.
If you take the time to equip yourself with tools like these, you’ll be better able to navigate the turbulent waters of a tense conversation in the future.
Prepare for Specifics When Possible
Negotiating is an activity that mostly takes place “in the moment,” but you can often do quite a bit to prepare beforehand as well.
For instance, say you share an apartment with a roommate and you’ve clashed multiple times over how to share the refrigerator. Rather than rolling up your sleeves and diving into a negotiation off the cuff, take some time to research best practices when it comes to sharing an apartment refrigerator.
Suggestions like splitting shelves and freezer space, sharing condiments, and setting up a rotating cleaning schedule can all be helpful to already have in your back pocket before you initiate the conversation.
Understand that Negotiation is an Art, Not a Science
Practicing tactics and planning negotiations can make the entire affair feel a bit rigid. However, once you’re actually talking with someone it’s essential that you remember to treat the activity as an art rather than a science.
You can’t simply calculate the outcome or measure what you think is a reasonable middle ground. Inevitably, human emotion and drama will be dragged into the situation and well.
Truly negotiating requires an ability to unpack and learn about a conflicting situation and then finesse and adapt things until you find a satisfactory solution. The fluid nature of this process requires flexible expectations and a steady willingness to compromise when necessary.
Take Time to Practice
Once you’ve prepared yourself to negotiate, don’t rest on your laurels and wait around for a serious situation to develop. Look for low-pressure opportunities to practice your negotiating skills with others.
For instance, if you work in an office, use your newly minted soft skill to bridge communication gaps and improve that all-important need for collaboration. Find areas of conflict that you’re already involved in (this isn’t a suggestion to poke your nose into other people’s affairs!) and try to mediate a solution that makes everyone happy.
Practice like this can help you fine-tune your skill and further prepare yourself for more significant negotiation scenarios.
Find a Mentor to Help You Learn to Negotiate
Finally, it’s a great idea to look for a negotiation master to serve as a mentor for you. It doesn’t matter if it’s a boss, a coworker, a friend, or a fellow parent, finding someone to help you develop and grow is a great way to foster long term growth.
Mentors can provide feedback, give you valuable information, and even provide an opportunity for some practice negotiation sessions from time to time.
Gleaning the Benefits of Negotiation
Whether you’re going after a major account at work, moving in with a loved one, or trying to come to terms with your child’s request for chocolate milk, the ability to negotiate can radically improve your life.
Remember, conflict isn’t a bad thing, it’s simply an interaction with another human being that must be handled in a specific way. Instead of becoming combative or simply avoiding conflict in the first place, take time to develop your negotiation skills now so that you can help navigate future confrontations towards the best solution for everyone involved.