6 Skills of Great Negotiators



According to a recent study, people will do all kinds of things to avoid negotiating a conflict: skydive for the first time, shave their head for charity, and even eat bugs for a week.


Bugs! 🐜


Yet, as scary as negotiation may be, it’s something many of us must do daily (internally and externally). So here are NextArrow’s tips for upping your negotiation game:


1. Take Aim: To negotiate well you need to have a clear sense of purpose. What are you aiming for? Research shows there are at least four areas that people value when they negotiate:

  • Instrumental goals: producing material outcomes

  • Relationships goals: creating a good impression and a solid foundation for the future.

  • Process goals: Being treated fairly and having a voice.

  • Self goals: saving face and acting in accord with your own standards.

Tip: Before your next negotiation take a moment to outline your goals for each category.


2. Shift Perspective: It’s not enough to know what you want. You also need to know what your negotiating partner wants. What are their interests and needs? Research shows that asking people to shift perspectives before a negotiation increases the probability they will generate win-win outcomes.


Tip: Before your negotiation begins, make it a habit to formally ask the following questions about your negotiating partner:


● Why would they say “yes” to my proposal?

● Why would they say “no” to my proposal?


3. Develop Curiosity: Great negotiators default into a mode of genuine curiosity when negotiating. Research shows that above average negotiators ask twice as many questions as their average counterparts. They do this because by asking questions, and being attentive to the answers, they gather information (which is a source of power) and help build a relationship with the other person.


Tip: Before your negotiation begins, try the Most Important Question (MIQ) technique: Take two minutes to jot down any questions you have for your negotiating partner. Then, take another two minutes to improve on the quality of the questions asked (e.g. open vs closed, authentic vs leading). Finally, add another minute to rank them (from most to least curious).


4. Keep Your Head: The ability to regulate your emotions is a superpower in negotiations. Why? Because negotiation is a stressful endeavor (the Latin origin of the word “negotiation” means “not leisure”) and research shows us that anxious negotiators significantly underperform in comparison to their less anxious counterparts.


Tip: Before going into your next negotiation, jot down what excites you about the opportunity to negotiate this deal. Then, when you’re feeling nervous, redirect your attention to what excites you.


5. Get Creative: Some of the greatest negotiators in history were also the most creative ones. Instead of thinking there’s only one solution to a problem, they think divergently and with imagination. Research shows that above average negotiators come up with five options per issue before a negotiation begins (average negotiators think of 2.6).


Tip: To get creative, try moving your eyes back-and-forth for 30 seconds. Research shows that doing so generates communication between your brain’s right and left hemispheres and has been shown to significantly improve the quantity and quality of creative ideas.


6. Find Common ground: Most people try to win a negotiation by poking holes in the other side’s argument, but great negotiators know that people are often more open to persuasion when they see that you agree with them on some points. Only then do they try to persuade by making their argument. This is why great negotiators spend most of their time identifying areas of agreement with their partner.


Tip: When making your case, less is more. Research shows that above average negotiators use less (not more) reasons to make their point. So come up with 1-2 strong reasons to support your argument and ditch the weak ones.


Meanwhile, hold your head up, negotiate courageously, and stay away from bugs!


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