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If real life negotiation case studies have taught us anything, it’s that workplace negotiation is a minefield. Everyone has an opinion, so if you want to gain ground in your negotiations, it’s vital that you brush up on your workplace negotiation skills. The ability to negotiate can help you disarm potentially volatile situations and find a mutually acceptable solution to just about any problem. Negotiation is a part of nearly every workplace interaction, from salaries to contracts to deadlines, so it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to pass through your career without needing this skill. Fortunately, negotiation skills can be learned, starting with these five tips.

Make Your Boundaries Clear

Go into any negotiation knowing what your non-negotiables are. This will allow you to more effectively communicate what you expect from the meeting. You’ll know exactly where you can bend and where you can’t and so with the other parties. Additionally, you’ll have more confidence because you have a line that can’t be crossed. You know where your breaking point is and the other parties will stay away from it.

Don’t Make It Personal

You’re probably going to have to continue to work with the people you’re negotiating with, so you need to protect those relationships. Keeping the negotiations impersonal and focused on your goals can preserve your working relationships. Instead of saying something like “you’re wrong” to another party, try “that’s wrong” instead. Just one small word change can remove the focus of the negotiation from a personal attack to the problem at hand.

Know Your Personal Triggers

Effective negotiation depends on emotions management. Knowing your triggers can help you avoid getting derailed when the other party says or does something that is designed to take your eye off the ball. You must stay focused on your negotiation goals even when temperatures rise. Pulling you off your game is likely a tactic being used by the other party to get more of what they want in the end. Staying on track can help you find a win-win solution that doesn’t leave you feeling like you really didn’t win at all.

Be Ready to Walk Away

This tip goes back to knowing your non-negotiables ahead of time and laying those non-negotiables out on the table at the outset of the meeting. If your non-negotiables are not met in the process you have to be ready and willing to walk away from the negotiations. This is not easy to do. People often set what they think are non-negotiables, but that are actually very negotiable. This gives the other party the upper hand, especially if you don’t walk away when they don’t budge. This confidence that you’ll walk away if you don’t meet certain goals will lessen any power the other party has over you. 

Ask for More

Be armed with what you need from the other party to give them what they want. For example, if the other party is asking for more money, then be ready to ask them for more productivity in return. They will usually be willing to give you more in exchange for meeting their negotiation goal. This is truly a win-win outcome because you’ll gain something in return for what the other person gains. Plus, you might actually get more than you expect. If a customer is trying to negotiate a discount, for instance, you can say “yes” to that discount on the condition that they purchase two or three other products. Once they’ve “won” the discount, they may just give you more than you wanted in the first place.

Play Fair

Negotiation isn’t always easy, but it’s also not appropriate to treat other people poorly to get what you want either. You want to think about the long-term with anyone you’re negotiating with. Some people negotiate with brute force, but it damages their reputation and makes people steel themselves in future negotiations so that they always have to use heavy-handed tactics to get anywhere. Negotiating in good faith so that everyone gets something they need or want is a better strategy when it comes to the workplace. People will be more willing to come to you with an open mind and fewer non-negotiables.

Practice

As with anything, your negotiation skills will only get better if you practice them. Try to think of any counter-arguments that could come up during the process and devise a response to them. When you’ve already prepared for these counter-arguments, you’ll come across as calm and unflappable when they’re brought up during negotiations. Surprise arguments are detrimental to what you’re trying to achieve, so taking the time to prepare and practice your responses will keep you focused on your goals throughout the entire process.

Conclusion

Workplace negotiations are not always smooth, but you can make them more bearable by improving your skills. You can also increase the odds of getting more of what you want in a negotiation if your skills are practiced and honed. Try these tips on your next negotiation and get the perfect win-win outcome.