It’s always nice when you work on a project that positively impacts your own life. A few years ago, HSI® conducted a study in which we had participants from two very different organizations conduct a negotiation. The participants lived in different cities and worked for two very different organizations (e.g., used different lingo, had different goals, and had different leadership styles). Last year, I reviewed the transcripts of these negotiations so that I could identify optimal (or generally good) strategies and suboptimal (or generally poor) strategies for negotiation. Although the study was designed with the two specific organizations in mind, I think the findings can generalize to most people regardless of their work or interests.
Here are some of the positive strategies you can use when you want to negotiate in your favour:
- Be friendly! Ask how people are doing, discuss a common interest, say something to get them to smile. People are generally nicer and more likely to want to work with you if they like you.
- Listen! A negotiation means that two people are trying to get what they want. You need to listen to what the other person wants so you can come to a solution. Telling another person what you want and ignoring what they want is not a negotiation.
- Be flexible! Try to come up with solutions that are good for both of you. People are more likely to give you something you want if they also get something they want.
- Be positive! Even if you can’t give the other person what they want, or if you just don’t want to help them, be positive about it. A good example of being positive about something negative can be found in the education literature on “sandwiching”. Sandwiching essentially means: let the person know that you are listening (positive), that you can’t give them exactly what they want (negative), but that there is an alternative solution that could be mutually beneficial (positive). Just saying “no” to their requests will not help your position.
In our research, we also found some generally negative strategies (i.e. tactics you should avoid):
- Don’t threaten the other person if you aren’t getting what you want. Threats will not create a positive environment and may just make the other person mad.
- Don’t disrespect the other person. Again, this might just make the other person mad.
- Don’t be stubborn. As noted above – be flexible.
These suggestions might seem obvious, but our research indicates they are unfortunately not obvious to everyone.
So the next time you want to negotiate, keep these tips in mind. …Unless of course you are working with young children. If my children are anything to go by, they tend to engage in the negative strategies and completely ignore the positive ones!