Ever wonder what skills and characteristics successful negotiators possess? Although there are many and varied elements that make for a skilled negotiator, research shows there are 5 that stand out above the rest:
1. Insight and perspective of the ‘Big Picture’ as well as the ability to pay attention to and prioritize the details.
Possibly the most essential characteristic of world class negotiators is their ability to understand what it is that all parties to the negotiation really want. The ability to see past the wish list of your counterparts and really understanding why it is that they are negotiating with you is an essential element that will help you to understand what common ground exists between all parties. Equally important is to understand all the individual elements that will ensure agreement by all parties.
2. The ability to generate creative options.
What many people describe as business negotiation is often no more than one dimensional haggling about price. Research suggests that more than 50% of negotiators struggle to create or uncover options outside of this one dimension. The ability to think creatively may not come naturally to all of us but it is a skill and process that can be practiced and improved upon.
3. Treating others with dignity & respect at all times.
A common misconception is that in order to be a tough negotiator one has to be a rude and ruthless negotiator. In all actuality it is quite the opposite. Both Mahatma Gandhi & Nelson Mandela are shining examples of how to “take the high road”. One can be tough on the issues while treating the people involved with dignity at all times. The rule of reciprocity states that we will return to others the form of behavior exhibited towards us. It is foolish to think one could rudely disrespect or demean ones counterpart without increasing the likelihood their resorting to similar approaches. Remember that very often victims become aggressors.
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4. Prepare Prepare Prepare.
The success of your negotiations will depend in large part on the quality of your preparation. We often make the mistake of thinking that we don’t have enough time to spend on preparing for negotiations. A primary factor in eliminating misunderstandings & shortening the negotiation cycle – therefore saving you time – is the quality of your preparation. Try to spend at least as much time preparing for negotiations as you expect to be involved in actual negotiation – ideally spend as much as 3 times more time in preparation as you expect to be involved in actual negotiation.
5. Know and understand your own strengths & weaknesses.
Continuously develop your skills. Similar to world class performers in professional sport, world class negotiators spend significant time analyzing the way that they negotiate – particularly under pressure. It is only once you have built an understanding of your own weaknesses & strengths that you can following the most useful path to improve. World class negotiators never stop refining their skills because they realize that one can never reach perfection. The world within which we negotiate today often seems more and more complex. Times change and so do the key skills required to be a world class negotiator. If you are able to do nothing else but devote time to the above 5 key characteristics you will almost certainly improve the quality of your negotiations and create more win wins.