Negotiation Skills

I recently had the pleasure of working with the Veterans Administration in Tampa, Florida. Our topic was Negotiation Skills. What I like most about this course is it presents several step-by-step ideas about how to handle negotiations.

A main concept in negotiation is to understand your position and interest and the other party’s position and interest. Most of us in a negotiation know the other party’s position because that is what is often verbalized. Seldom is the question asked about why the person or group in the negotiation is taking that position — in other words what are their interest (ideas, hopes, needs, wants) that have caused them to take a position. It may be hard to remain neutral and flexible but it is important to try to understand where the other party is coming from in the process.

Relationships are about 90% in any negotiation. That is why it is very important to understand the various perceptions about the areas that are being negotiated. Communication is a key element…..checking for understanding, asking questions, listening. Remember – do not assume anything in the negotiation process.

Often negotiations end up being somewhere between accommodate (I lose – You win) and compromise (We both win and lose). Negotiation can also be a competition where it turns out to be “my way or the highway”. Needless to say this does not build strong relationship.

“Ideally” any negotiation should be a collaboration of ideas, methods to solve the problem, and mutually agreed upon ways to execute the decisions made during the negotiation. “Win-win” takes a lot of time and effort that people are often not willing to put into the negotiation process. To add to time and effort, people tend to stick with “their position” and are not willing to move from it. “Win-win” can be difficult to achieve.

If all parties involve could collaborate, it would mean an agreement is reached, both parties buy into the agreement, and they are willing to work toward making the agreement a reality. If either party has any reservations about the agreement, more questions need to be asked until a mutual “comfort level” is reached.
What happens if the negotiation does not work? Since about 90% of all negotiation is relationships, then the groundwork needs to be laid for future negotiations. Thus, there should be no threats, finger pointing, or ultimatums.

Negotiation is a process that does take time and energy but when it works well it will have been worth the effort.

About Kathleen McCleskey

Kathleen McCleskey has developed and presented workshops to over 13,000 participants. These workshops included participants from diverse backgrounds, education, nationality and heritage. The workshops she delivered were conducted in the United States, Egypt, Micronesia, Spain, Germany, Holland, Korea, Canada, Thailand, Japan, and Belgium.

Kathleen has a Masters of Human Relations from the University of Oklahoma and a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Maryland.

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