Thursday, September 16, 2010

Tips for Being a Successful Negotiator

I'll be the first to admit I've not always been a great negotiator. Growing up with two sisters, negotiation wasn't in our vocabulary. You wanted something, you took it by force or by stealth, but there was no negotiating involved. Hair-pulling and scratching, yes. Negotiation -- no.

But entering the working world, I saw that hair-pulling wasn't going to get me far. I watched with fascination as some colleagues seemed to lead a charmed life -- anything they wanted, they got. I watched as others seemed to be destined to always slam headlong into "no" whenever they tried to get anywhere.

Recently I interviewed a couple of experts on the art of negotiation for my Gannett/ column, about how you can be more successful in getting what you want with a whole lot less stress. Since I'm all for less hair-pulling and scratching, here's what I learned....

If you're like many people, the only experience you have with negotiations is when it's time to buy a car.Not only is that often a stressful experience, but you may feel like you rarely succeed in getting what you want with salespeople who negotiate for a living.

Negotiations can be tough and intimidate many people — even to the point they'll do what they can to avoid them. They believe negotiations are a win-lose proposition. And they often come out on the losing end.

So it's no wonder that when it comes time for you to negotiate with the boss for a raise or a new project or a promotion, you aren't successful — or never even attempt it in the first place.

But a new book, The One Minute Negotiator, (Berrett-Koehler, $21.95) by Don Hutson and George Lucas may give you what you need to not only successfully negotiate a deal for a new car but to get that desired job or raise. The book looks at the different styles of negotiation and how your knowledge of those tactics can help you be successful in getting what you want.

"Most people don't really like to negotiate. They usually have some form of 'negotiaphobia,' " Hutson says. "That means they don't know how to negotiate, they haven't enjoyed it in the past and they tend to avoid it."

For example, you might tell yourself that you don't want to rock the boat at work by asking for a promotion, when in reality you're just avoiding the negotiation process," he says. "Not being able to negotiate may mean you won't get ahead in your career, but your boss may also see the lack of negotiation skills as a problem for the company.

"There is a lot more pressure in the marketplace today, and the need for skilled negotiations is greater than ever before," Hutson says. "People have to learn to be more collaborative and work with others to get what is needed."

The authors explain that one of the keys to successfully negotiating is understanding not only your own negotiating tendencies but also being able to recognize the strategies others use.

For example, maybe you have a tendency to be "accommodating" when negotiating. This means that you'll do whatever you can to give the other person what he or she is seeking.

"Females are often more prone to the accommodation technique than men because they're often at a disadvantage when negotiating. If a man is tough and negotiates, he is seen as a player. A woman is seen as a. .. well, you can fill in the blank," Lucas says. "It's not fair and it's not right, but that's what happens."

Once you understand the different negotiating strategies, then you can figure out which kind will work best in certain situations. Being able to assess each situation leads to more successful negotiations rather than falling back on a "one-size-fits-all" strategy that often fails, Hutson says.

"Many people who train others in negotiation work with a 'win-lose' scenario. They show how to become competitive in negotiations, which often isn't a successful strategy," Hutson says.

The authors note that when you use a competitive strategy, then the situation "is about fighting to get a larger slice of the pie." But, if you use a "collaborative" strategy, then you're focusing "on growing the size of the pie."

Still, collaboration isn't always easy to implement and takes planning and patience, they stress.

"Collaboration is hard work. You've got to understand the other person's needs as well as your own," he says, explaining that one of the best ways to get information out of the other person is to stop talking and sit quietly.

"Be silent," he says, "and they'll end up telling you what they need. By letting the other person talk, you're giving them a chance to help come up with a solution. That's a win-win for everyone."

What are some negotiation techniques you've found successful?


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