Remember these mantras – (1) “Everything is negotiable!” and (2) “Practice makes perfect!”
If one of your professional or personal goals is to become a better negotiator, then you have to start practicing. No one is going to anoint you with a magic wand and sprinkle rock star negotiator dust on you. The best way to become an expert negotiator is to regularly practice.
When helping my clients at The Azara Group prepare for negotiations and develop strategies to gain leverage and bargaining power, there are times they want me to negotiate for them. Sometimes this is the best approach, but I want them to get better at negotiating. I advise them and step in when needed, but ultimately I want to equip them so they can rely on themselves when I’m not in the room. This same logic applies to you.
Practicing is the key to sharpening your skills and knowing what approaches work well. You have to develop your tool basket so you have techniques to pull out of your back pocket in any situation.
Essentially, it all starts with you. You have to want to learn, change, and grow, and then proactively start doing it–one day at a time.
1. Embrace the World as Your Training Ground
You can begin this by embracing the reality that everything is negotiable. Keep repeating this in your head and incorporating it into your daily encounters with people, companies, and places you spend money. Try different techniques and approaches in your daily life.
- Deciding where to go on vacation with your significant other.
- Trying to return a pair of jeans on the 32nd day to a store with a 30-day return policy.
- Planning a team building event for the office.
- Figuring out who in the office gets to take off Christmas versus New Year’s Eve.
- Developing the agenda for a big meeting at work.
What’s my point? Everywhere we go, we are surrounded by chances to hone our skills and negotiate. Start considering the world as your daily training ground. Over time, you will see that you are getting better at mastering this skill.
2. Open Your Ears
After recognizing there are daily opportunities to negotiate, you need to start using certain tools to be effective. Before jumping into “let-me-convince-or-persuade-you” mode as if your negotiation is “The Great Debate,” take a step back. Start by listening. One of the more effective tools in negotiating is learning how to listen.
So stop. Ask questions. Learn what is important to the other party. Listen for (1) how they are feeling, (2) what are the core underlying issues influencing their wants, (3) what is really on the table, and (4) what are they truly interested in getting compared to what they are demanding or claiming they want.
Once you have truly heard them, then you can start working out a solution that works for both of you.
3. Be Flexible
While working out solutions to problems in “the world’s training ground,” practice being flexible. When you have predetermined in your mind what the exact solution should be, you may close yourself off to better options. Learn to keep an open mind.
Do not be so deadlocked in what you think is the best solution. You may be pleasantly surprised with what the other person proposes or how things turn out. So when negotiating, try letting go. Be less controlling over what the specific outcome must or should be.
Once you release some of your preconceived notions and start talking through possibilities in a more collaborative manner, you will begin to see better options on the table.
4. Don’t Ask, Don’t Get
As my mother says, “Don’t ask, don’t get.” It is that simple. So start asking and practicing.
When you embark on this journey and test out different approaches to getting what you want, keep in mind something very critical. While the world may be your training ground, you have to be careful. People do not like feeling manipulated. Be subtle. Do not toy with them or play games. This is just a process and learning experience.
Now get out there, practice, and have some fun with it. The ability to become a good negotiator begins with YOU!
To learn more about Equal Pay Day and Levo’s #Ask4More campaign, click here.
[Photo: Mother's Finest]