When was the last time you felt triumphant in a negotiation? In the workplace for a salary negotiation, with business partners for a trade deal, or in your relationships for boundaries?
Mastering the art of negotiation is a fundamental skill for navigating life, and it’s especially crucial for moving up the corporate ladder. Most employees will likely remember the first time they tried to figure out how to negotiate for their salary. Adept negotiators can find themself gaining access to more opportunities, such as promotions and better job prospects. On the other hand, you could unintentionally be “lowballing” yourself from your maximum potential if you keep falling on the losing end of a career negotiation.
We know negotiating can be difficult. Some may even say it’s scary—an unavoidable consequence because the process entails some conflict. Both sides want to win and gain the most value for themself.
While you can’t immediately become skilled and proficient as an F.B.I. hostage negotiator, you can still start somewhere. Here are tips that may help you succeed the next time you participate in employee negotiations.
Seize control. One of the key ways to swing a career negotiation, or any negotiation, in your favor early on is to make the first move. Why is this important? Because it establishes your terms as the starting point for your discussion.
Ideally, you should be prepared for multiple scenarios where things don’t go your way and you must wrestle for control. The back-and-forth of counteroffers is necessary, so neither party regrets the deal in the end.
Be specific when discussing money. When you use ranges to set the price, the person you’re negotiating with will only hear the lower end. You may be willing to accept a price lower than the range you give, but the other party doesn’t need to know. Giving a specific number with a reasonable explanation provides an anchor for your offer.
It also shows the other party that you’re prepared and have done your research. This can have a powerful effect on how the other party perceives you and can make your arguments and opinions more persuasive.
Only talk as much as you need to and know when to stay silent. Negotiating is often a tense exchange, and maintaining your composure is a crucial skill you must learn to succeed. Replying with silence while keeping eye contact can be a decisive move that may cause the other party to give in to their anxiety and cede ground.
A common issue among people with little experience in career negotiation is the tendency to overshare and let their emotions take over when pressured. It’s best to remember your goals or ‘win’ conditions when you feel like you’re being pinched. Have a concrete idea of what you’re willing to cede and which lines you’re not ready to cross. This will make it easier to haggle and keep yourself composed.
Ask open-ended questions and listen. As much as possible, you should avoid throwing Yes-No questions. They don’t help move a negotiation or even a conversation forward. Why or How questions will put the other party in a position where they need to explain with details. Listen to their answers carefully, as they may reveal helpful information you can use when crafting a counteroffer.
Despite the seemingly hostile nature of negotiations, empathizing is essential to this type of interaction. An empathetic ear can help you find openings in a negotiation that would otherwise not appear if you approached it with a negative mindset.
A successful negotiation is when both sides win. Hardball strategies will get you a few wins but will disincentivize people from negotiating with you in the future. The best negotiators will also make the other party feel good about the deal. You always want to aim for a win-win outcome in your negotiations. Remember that there will be more negotiations in the future. Play for the long game instead of sacrificing your potential for short-term gains.
Learn to let go. There may be times when the best move is to walk away from the table. You may never find a reasonable compromise with the other party. Sometimes, that is a reasonable outcome. However, when you choose to do so, you must avoid flip-flopping when you decide to end the negotiation. Be confident and accept the outcome!
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