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Ways to negotiate effectively

It is inevitable that there will be situations in the workplace where conflict or disagreements exist. In these situations, the two parties at odds with one another may also have some level of interdependence between them. If this interdependence provides an opportunity for the parties to gain in some way, and if there is a chance for some sort of agreement to be reached, then negotiations can used to reach a suitable agreement for both sides.

As a negotiator, there are several things to keep in mind when attempting to reach a suitable agreement. Keep in mind however, there is no single best way to negotiate; it is important to consider the context or environment in which you are negotiating, as well as which side has the greater bargaining power in the relationship.

With that, here are some suggestions on ways in which negotiation skills can be improved:
  • Be prepared to make small concessions and reciprocate any similar concessions made by the other side.

  • Focus on the negotiation issues and the contextual issues and not on the personal characteristics of your opponent.

  • Try to get past any repetitive points or counterarguments made by the other side to get to the real reason behind their position. By doing so, you will determine what is truly driving their position, and you may also determine their entire negotiating strategy.

  • If you have the advantage of possessing power in the negotiation, do not be afraid to use it. Make specific demands that must be met; be persuasive in these demands; and don't hesitate to make mild threats. Being in this position affords you the opportunity to negotiate in this way.

  • As mentioned previously, be conscious of the environment and the context within the negotiations are taking place. Realize that your opponent's behaviour and/or their power is affected by the fact that the environment is not exactly harmonious at the moment.
Ultimately, you are out to reach an agreement - one that satisfies your needs, and hopefully also the needs of the other side. Effective conflict resolution involves knowing your own personal style, which can either be: accommodating, collaborating, avoiding, or dominating.

Compromising is an approach that combines each of these four styles and involves finding an acceptable middle-ground so that everyone feels as though a suitable agreement has been reached. The compromising approach can therefore be very effective in reaching long-term positive outcomes following negotiations. Do you know which style you use?

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