Whether it’s an employee negotiating their salary, business partners making a joint decision or compromises being made between friends and family, negotiations are a part of everyday life. Becoming a good negotiator takes consistent practice. However, there are some skills you can work on that will help you pick it up faster.
Below, 14 Forbes Coaches Council members explore skills and qualities that can help you successfully negotiate in a variety of situations. If you want to get better at creating win-win scenarios, start cultivating these traits and behaviors in yourself.
Forbes Coaches Council members share skills and traits to hone to engage in more successful negotiations. PHOTOS COURTESY OF THE INDIVIDUAL MEMBERS.
Observing Nonverbal Cues
When negotiating, most people listen only to what is being said. Step back and observe body language. If you can, bring a colleague with you who can read nonverbal tells while you focus on the words, spoken or written. Knowing how to read body language takes your negotiating skills to the next level. There is a lot to be perceived between the lines. Be aware and observe. - Devika Das, CORE Executive Presence
Understanding Your ‘Why’
Going into the talks with clear values and understanding what you are willing to concede, as well as your bottom line, is crucial to how you’ll position your value proposition. As Stephen Covey said, “Begin with the end in mind.” Knowing when to walk away, in many cases, can lead to you never having to walk away. - Janet Miller Evans, Entevos
Mapping Out Your Strategy
When you go into negotiations, you need to have a plan and know your bottom-line number. Whether it’s negotiations for salary or a merit bonus, the key is to have a clear objective of what you want and know what you’re willing to accept. - Wendi Weiner, The Writing Guru®
Preparation is key. Know what you want and what you think they want before you walk into the meeting. If you have your baseline and boundaries in place, then you can focus more on what they’re saying in the discussion. You can be present and listen more fully. You can validate, shift, offer and brainstorm. Try to make it “us” against the problem, rather than us against each other. - Sandi Mitchell, Apex Catalyst Group
For job seekers and entrepreneurs, specifically, it’s important to avoid absolutes and be open and exploratory. Avoid making mandates, demands, absolute statements that use the word “no” and phrases such as, “This is my minimum,” or, “This is my final offer.” Remember, both parties want to create a win-win, so you’re engaged in a discussion of possibilities. Thus, using open and positive language allows you to find that together. - Laura DeCarlo, Career Directors International
Helping Each Other Succeed
Helping the other party succeed is essential. Find out what they want or need, and then help them get it. It will change the tone of the negotiations and the quality of the exchanges. It is a myth that there must be a winner and a loser. Those who try that route will fail. Seek ways to help both sides win, and you will succeed. - Maureen Cunningham, Up Until Now Inc.
Offering The Other Party A Winning Proposition
Negotiate from the standpoint of offering the other party a winning proposition. By analyzing their needs and building several layers of solutions to meet them, you’ll be able to craft terms that satisfy their requirements. Remember that successful negotiations are based on both trust and competency. Aim for a win-win solution to help both parties build a positive, long-term relationship. - Laura Smith-Proulx, An Expert Resume
Being Present In The Moment
Being 100% present in the moment allows us to listen actively, connect quickly with the other party in a way that promotes generative dialogue. You can pick up on verbal and nonverbal cues, discern the motive and relative importance of the request and respond in a way that is likely to move the conversation forward. - Lisa Walsh, Beacon Executive Coaching
Asking Open-Ended Questions
I advise steering clear of “yes” or “no” questions about compensation. Instead, focus on an expectation that there will be an increase in numbers and how they can help meet that goal. Instead of saying, “I will be a great asset; can you raise my base?” switch to something such as, “We agree that my skills and achievements will make me an immediate asset; what can you do to raise my base accordingly?” That is far more effective! - Emily Kapit, ReFresh Your Step, LLC
You have to be skilled at building rapport to be a successful negotiator. You need to understand the goals and motivators of those you’re negotiating with, and find an opening to share your own, in order to negotiate a win-win. If you don’t build authentic trust and respect and get the other party to care—which sometimes needs to be done quickly—you won’t negotiate the best outcome. - Jennifer Wilson, ConvergenceCoaching, LLC
Keeping Your Inner Critic In Check
Acknowledge your own inner critic and don’t let them hijack your negotiations. Too often we allow our negotiations or general conversations to go awry because we get too caught up in our own inner dialogues and miss out on a calm, grounded conversation that can help us move toward a win-win negotiation. - Billy Williams, Archegos
Seeing The Situation From Their Perspective
To gain an understanding of those we are negotiating with, we need to see things from their perspective. This includes sensing what they may be feeling and thinking. Everyone wants to be understood. By acknowledging and validating their position, we stand a better chance of seeing a positive outcome from the negotiation. - Evan Roth, Roth Consultancy International, LLC.
Finding Common Ground
“What do we have in common?” This critical question is often overlooked in negotiations. Negotiating seems and sounds adversarial by nature, so most people who go into one are looking to make their points and stamp their point of view on the discussion. Start with what you have in common, and then work toward a win-win, as opposed to adopting the more aggressive, face-off mindset of most negotiators. - John M. O’Connor, Career Pro Inc.
Compassion is the key to successful negotiations. This involves listening beyond words to truly understand the perspective of others. Let them know that you have heard them before you reply. Compassion is about ensuring that your message is clear and articulate too. Being compassionate creates win-win-win solutions, as generative thinking can enable all parties to walk away with a sense of fairness. - Clare Beckett-McInroy, Qatar Foundation
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