Five Simple and Awesome Tips to Become a Great Negotiator
I am sure, at one time or another, you have been in a negotiation where you felt that it was going in the direction you planned it to go but it completely went the other way. At such times, have you wondered why and how to become a great negotiator?
At any given point more than half of our communication is nonverbal. Going by this, it is crucial that you are aware of these facts when you enter a negotiation, as it would provide you with a competitive edge. You may be actively present in the negotiation, but there are these silent non-verbal mechanisms at play that may be influencing not only your but the other party’s way of carrying out the negotiation.
One of the most vital aspects of being a good negotiator is not just about what all you bring to the table When you are sitting across your counterpart, you might be so focused on multi-staged technicalities of a negotiation that it might become difficult to understand the motives of your counterpart and also see the whole negotiation outside of their perspective.
Here are some things that you must pay attention to understand and react effectively in a complex and stressful negotiation:
Observation done should be interpreted with the context in mind
When you see a person behaving or reacting in a certain manner, or not, you need to be able to understand why this is so. The key to this is to understand body language, more technically referred to as nonverbal behavior with the context in mind. What could be the possible context under which this body language is possible? Without taking context into consideration, if you try to interpret behavior, it can give a completely different meaning to the behavior. For example, the person sitting across the table is not looking too excited with the discussion. This could mean he wants more out of the deal. But could it also mean that he comes from a culture where showing too much emotion is not encouraged? If you try to understand the person better, you learn that a dear one just passed away in his family. Now is the muted excitement justified? Learning the context definitely helps understand your counterpart better.
Understand and note the baseline for their behavior
Ex FBI special agent Joe Navarro in his book What Every Body is Saying draws attention to the fact that “in order to understand what is the basic behavior of the people with whom you communicate, pay attention to how they look, how are they sitting, how are they walking, how much hand gestures they use, how much personal space they take.” Having a baseline is the most crucial part. Within a few minutes of meeting your partner in negotiation, you should be making mental notes of this baseline behavior so that you can notice what changes later on. If you got a chance to meet this partner in a setting before the formal negotiation process, that would have given you time to prepare better.
Understanding and recognizing unique behavior
Unique behaviors are specific and unique actions or gestures that are carried out by the person. There may be times when you see some strange actions by your fellow negotiator and you are trying to fit in the meaning of the same into your standard understanding of body language but somehow that action does not fit in. Or he might be showing peculiar action that you have never seen before. I know of an individual who has a habit of twisting their body hair. Another who keeps pinching himself in various places time and again. Not commonly seen body displays might be a little difficult to decipher, but if you can do this, it would help you understand how your counterpart is thinking. The key to this is to look for times when these peculiar actions change – either they start, or stop or frequency of these change.
Notice changes in behavior
Changes in behavior can reveal a lot about a person, sudden changes in behavior during negotiation or some interaction can tell you about how the person prosses information, shows which part is of interest. Noticing these changes can help you understand your counterpart and which will help you to predict them. So, you have an advantage over them for example, while sitting across someone in a negotiation discussing terms point by point and they you observe that your counterpart pulled his hand back, or suddenly turned his chair or was swing a chair and stopped these are the points when there is a shift in your counterparts thought prosses.
What is Real, what is misleading
While observing your counterpart be aware of the signal that you are interpreting – is it a genuine signal or is it mean to mislead you? Seasoned negotiators have a way of trying to keep their real thoughts from you by clouding them with obvious body language gestures or expressions to throw you off their track. While in day-to-day negotiations this might not be so common, it is often seen in high context cultures like India where we go by what we see rather than just what is spoken. There are ways of deciphering what is a real body language cue and what is meant to misinform you.
Do the above points make you wonder about how to observe so many things and yet pay attention to the technical discussions of your negotiation?
The solution to this problem is to have an external observer. An External Observer is someone who is on your side but observes both the parties involved. The observer is not going to be participating in the actual negotiation while both the parties are on the table. Having an external observer will help to expand your field of perception and gain more information about your counterpart as well as about the signal that you are giving.
The observer must be someone who is an expert in understanding nonverbal cues and human behavior. They can play a crucial part in making or breaking your negotiation based on the nuances of human behavior that they are able to notice and pass on to you.
Each person is different, just as each negotiation is different. So, every deal cannot be tackled with the same approach. That is why it is important to use every asset in your negotiation team to gain a competitive edge.
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