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4 tips to ace your next negotiation

Updated: Jul 25, 2022

Negotiations are a huge part of any career journey. Some go well, and some (unfortunately) don’t. We figured that settling for mediocre negotiations isn’t our style, so we came up with 4 things to remember for you to get the most out of your next negotiation – whatever the subject may be. So, buckle up, and let’s explore how you can negotiate like a pro.

some base rules

Let’s start with a simple question: why should you negotiate in the first place? First of all, we are constantly encountering possible confrontations at work and in our personal life – effective communication and negotiation is a must for successfully engaging with other parties and getting things moving. However, sometimes we tend to evade negotiations: this usually stems from associating negotiation with traditional bargaining or a typical fighting-to-win scenario. That’s why fostering killer negotiation skills can help turn a never-ending debate into a co-creating process, during which you can ensure that your needs are met.

It’s important to remember that negotiation is not a battle to win – on the contrary, effective negotiation shows the magic of finding common ground and working towards similar goals with your partner.

research behind effective negotiation

Roger Fisher, an American professor at Harvard University, advanced scientific knowledge regarding negotiations in the 1970’s. In his book Getting to Yes, Fisher acknowledged that negotiating with a win-lose attitude (competitive bargaining) limits our achievement. He shifted the view away from fighting for one’s own benefit towards negotiating in collaboration.

What did he propose instead? In Fisher’s view, on the opposite end of competitive bargaining is interest-based negotiation – a famous and successful strategy that is based on the power of collaboration. It is about creating a win-win situation, in which the interests of each conversation partner are taken into account. Rather than taking extreme positions, Fisher suggested finding a suitable compromise in the middle. This type of negotiation consists of 4 pillars that should be followed and acknowledged throughout the process of negotiating. Let’s check them out:

three women negotiating

pillar 1: focus on interests

30-second version: focus on the why instead of the what and find a common interest to work with.

The fault of competitive negotiation lies within the rigid focus on achieving or maintaining certain positions. The desire to achieve a certain position is an egocentric view that is concerned with what you want.

It is highly important to go beyond this rather superficial desire of wanting and explore what it is that lies beneath it. Ask yourself why you or your conversation partner want to achieve a certain position and embrace this interest. Upon exploring the interests, needs, goals, motivations, or concerns of both parties, common ground can be established.

pillar 2: separate people from problems

30-second version: soften people & harden problems; constantly reflect upon and ask yourself what the other person might feel – take an integrative attitude.

We often forget that we are negotiating with another human being, who can have vulnerabilities, desires, and background stories that we do not know of. For example, we tend to ignore that behind each company, there is an individual who is responsible for the negotiation.

It is important to realize that other people have different reasons to act the way they do.

pillar 3: create multiple options

30-second version: think about more than one solution to your problem and broaden your perspective.

​​A typical reaction to an issue is working towards a perfect solution.

Instead, try taking a step back and broadening your perspective. There is never just one ideal solution, but there are multiple options that can satisfy your needs. Try to be more flexible and open to different solutions – you might just see your chances of success increase.

pillar 4: use objective criteria

30-second version: be prepared to argue with objective facts (you might encounter questions like: What is your market value? What should your salary be and why?) and ​​leave your personal standards at home.

A negotiation should never be based on subjective thoughts or experiences. Your truth is not necessarily the truth of your conversation partner and it is almost impossible to convince someone with your personal beliefs.

Luckily, there are objective facts that create the perfect ground for negotiations. Objective facts can be past achievements in the company, your skills, law regulations and much more. Try to hold on to facts instead of arguing with your emotions or perception of fairness.

“Your conversation partner's objectives may not be exactly what you think they are. Understand where they are coming from to find a solution that accommodates their needs while solving your problem.”

- Christine Dietz, Partner at Binder Grösswang

As always, it’s all about coming prepared. If you get lost in the negotiation, refocus on your strengths, your confidence and why you are negotiating. You can ask for a short break to calm yourself down or excuse yourself to grab a cup of coffee.

Learn to reimage a no: try to take the perspective of the other party and understand why they are rejecting your request. For example, your company could be in a growth phase and thus constrained with monetary assets. Re-evaluate your viewpoint! Ask for an outlook for a salary raise in the future and plan further steps in collaboration with your employer

Finally, forget about using “tricks”. Avoid working against someone. Try to stay yourself and work within the framework of the Harvard principle. After all, collaborative negotiation is the most successful (we checked)!

To sum up: when approaching negotiations, it’s important to work together, rather than against each other. Focus on your whys instead of whats and remember that the person you’re talking to has their very own whys and circumstances. Keep some bullseye facts in your sleeve and voilà – you’ve got yourself a yes.

If you need a little cheat sheet with all the advice summed up, we’ve prepared a handy workbook for your reference.

We of all people know that it can be challenging to establish your presence in a room full of men as a female professional. That’s why we’re dedicated to getting you a seat at the table. Check out our inner circle for support and awesome opportunities for women just like you!

Now go out there and ace that negotiation!

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