When faced with a sudden challenge that feels impossible, sometimes negotiation is inevitable, and more importantly, necessary. It’s probably not that difficult for you to imagine a time when you were tasked with something that seemed insurmountable. Whether it was time-consuming or lacking important data with which to formulate an approach, the bottom line was that it needed to get done, and done a lot sooner than you had planned or anticipated.
As familiar as this may sound, let’s take a step back for a moment to agree that negotiation is very much a part of success. Goals are rarely ever reached without some kind of unforeseen hurdle popping up. Now let’s take another step back and set a couple of foundations. One, the condition of your readiness to face challenges that will need to be negotiated. Malcolm Forbes summed it up nicely when he said, “The art of conversation lies in listening.” When you’re in a mental state of truly wanting to understand the needs of others, then you’re ready to approach the negotiating table. Two, the importance of being responsible about who you are and what you do. In work and in life, boundaries are an absolute necessity, and being able to articulate them—with compassion—will help you not only succeed, but earn respect.
The Importance of Negotiation
Credited as one of the most talented negotiators in history, Nelson Mandela left behind a legacy that’s sure to enrich your success the more you learn about it. Literally from rags to riches, Mandela began life as a tenacious up-and-comer in politics and philanthropy before being thrown into prison for 27 years. Not giving up hope, though, he was able to talk his way into the hearts of millions and earn the title of President of South Africa. Why? Because Mandela learned early on that to achieve significant change requires genuine legitimization of the needs and concerns of others. He’s best known for helping bring an end to apartheid in the region, but his legacy extends beyond that momentous and historical effort. While imprisoned, he also negotiated with officials to convince them to build a tennis court for the prisoners.
The point here is to first approach negotiation with true character. Without it, you’re not likely to even be heard, so set yourself up for success by learning and caring about the needs of others. This will also help ensure the person or client you’re negotiating with will feel respected and understood. The next part is to simply listen. Not much sense in trying to negotiate something if you don’t fully know the facts. And since you’re approaching the negotiation table with a desire to understand the other party’s needs, you’re certainly going to find listening to be easier than you thought. This also allows you to gather the information you need in order to find a healthy compromise. Since you know yourself and your business, coupling that with what’s really at stake will help develop a strong foundation upon which the negotiation can build.
Trust the Process
As the negotiation process begins, don’t be afraid to ask questions. It probably goes without saying, but remember to never, ever assume. Anything, from actual situational facts to personal beliefs and values, can have a direct impact on the impasse. Let your compassion and goals for success fuel your curiosity, and from there, you’ll be able to navigate into finding mutual benefits for both parties. Check your ego at the door, too! The whole reason you’re faced with a negotiation is because two entirely separate needs have collided. If you need some inspiration, just remember that both sides have a something very much in common: the desire and need to move forward.
Lastly, it’s time to come to a conclusion. Through understanding, listening, and asking questions, you’re well on your way to finalizing your negotiation. Each step so far is going to lend a healthy hand to the back-and-forth, and if you approach the entire process with the mentality of working together in perpetuity, a mutually agreeable outcome is sure to follow. We can all agree that in life and in business, compromise is both inevitable and a virtue. If you go into the negotiation process willing to bend, you’re so much more likely to avoid something becoming broken.
Worldwide Copyright TJ Associates, LLC DBA Blueprint Leadership Diane Kucala, February 2019