Negotiate Like a Pro and Achieve More

By Eric Partaker

In work we’re often engaged in some form of negotiation. But most people go about it all wrong, creating unnecessary disharmony and potentially leaving a lot on the table.

Here are 6 simple principles you can follow to negotiate better, get more of what you want, and achieve your goals faster.

  1. Know your goal. Most people go into a negotiation without knowing what they really want. If you’re not crystal clear on what you’re shooting for, you could help the other side achieve their goals without achieving yours. The simple solution is to be super clear about what a good outcome looks like, before the negotiation begins.
  2. State your intent. Personally, I always start off a negotiation by stating a goodwill intention: “I want this deal to be a good deal for both of us.” This might seem small, but I want the other person to know that I’m committed to helping them achieve their goals as well as mine. Because the truth is, a good deal is only good when both sides think it is. Stating that intention, right from the beginning, changes the whole dynamic of the conversation.
  3. Focus on interests, not positions. Most people state their “position” in a negotiation. This is very dangerous as it invites the other side to do the same, and often leads to deadlock. It might be something along the lines of “our standard policy is to only do things in this way.” Now there may be merit to such a statement, but always dig deeper and try to understand the interests the other side is trying to protect. There may well be other ways to protect them, other than the stated “position”.
  4. Create the third entity. In a negotiation, we typically think of one side in opposition to the other, which can makes the discussion immediately adversarial. I like to think that there are actually three entities in the room. There’s us, the other person, and the problem that we’re solving. I never sit directly across from someone, and often sit on the same side of the table (or at the very least, both of us on the corner), so we can both work on the problem in front of us.
  5. Create space. Emotions can flare. That’s natural. When it happens it’s important to create space. Whether it’s a pause, a deep breath, a brief break, or deciding to reconvene later in the day. You do not want the emotional part of your brain, for either you or the person you’re negotiating with, to begin to take over. When emotion comes in, irrationality often quickly follows.
  6. Reference the other person’s standards. This can be particularly powerful within an ongoing relationship. If the quality of the work is not what you would expect, and you also know that delivering high quality work is important for the other side, then it’s important to reference that standard. You could for example start the conversation by stating you want to make sure your work together reflects the standards the particular individual stands for.