Be a better negotiator – starting today

When I run our ‘How to negotiate’ workshop, we spend some time brainstorming all the everyday situations when we negotiate with other people. Once participants get the hang of this, they come up with loads of everyday negotiating situations – and that’s important in the context of our training. It means that there are plenty of opportunities for people to put their newly learned knowledge and skills into practice back on the job.

All too often we can think of negotiation as something that we do infrequently, and as a Big Deal: maybe once a year (pay review) or every few years (new job salary, buying a car). That thinking can lead us to letting our negotiating skills get rusty, which isn’t good. What’s more, if we lose the negotiation habit, we can view all negotiations as a ‘zero sum game’ or ‘all or nothing’, where nobody really wins.

Chances are, you’re missing everyday opportunities to boost your negotiation skills. For example when you:

  • Plan and book a holiday
  • Discuss who’s going to unload the dishwasher / do the ironing / cook dinner
  • Send food back in a restaurant
  • Discuss behaviour and/or boundaries with the neighbours
  • Organise a party
  • Get poor service from a bank
  • Take something back to a shop for a refund / exchange
  • Update your personal tech, e.g. a new smartphone
  • Deal with tradespeople for your home such as decorators
  • Agree who’s going to drive – and who’ll enjoy the wine – when you go out

We can often view these everyday situations in the same negative light as the Big Deal ones – and avoid negotiating as a result. Yet they are great low-risk opportunities to try things out and take a more positive view of negotiation. What’s more, the key principles of good negotiation still apply:

What do you want? Short-term and long-term. For example, you may really like the restaurant and want to return, but need to make a point about the food or service all the same.

What does the other party want? One of the classic traps for negotiation novices is not looking at the situation from other person’s perspective. That shop or supermarket wants to keep you happy and see you return.

What trades would sweeten the deal for you? The other party may be able to offer you extras that have high value to you (such as discounted hotel rooms at your party venue) but are relatively simple for them to provide.

What trades can you offer? It may seriously sweeten the deal for your decorator if you can pay a part of the fee upfront (but be sure to keep a chunk back until everything’s done to your satisfaction). Your neighbour may turn the volume down if you stop slamming the door on your way out at 7am.

Get in the habit of negotiating with more people, more of the time, and you’ll be developing essential skills for both the everyday situations and those less frequent, ‘Big Deal’ ones too.

I can’t sign off on this topic without a plug for Marc Lockley, co-creator of Zoomly’s ‘How to negotiate’ workshop and author of ‘How to pay less for more’, available on Amazon.

Dawn is the author of ‘How to be Zoomly at work’, available on Amazon.



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