Improve Your Negotiations With The 5 Golden Rules.   LEARN THEM

“I don’t like negotiating,” my friend said. “Especially when it involves me personally. In that case, I hate it. I also hate negotiating for a raise. And I especially hate negotiating with my neighbor over his constantly yelping dog when I’m by my pool.”

Do you dislike negotiating in certain contexts? What about those “conversations” with your significant other that always seem to degenerate?

Everyone dislikes certain negotiations. Many even go to elaborate lengths to avoid them. But almost everyone has to face some unpleasant negotiations.

Here’s my advice regarding how to most effectively address these situations.

Explore why you dread the negotiation and what’s really at stake. Few individuals enjoy asking for a raise. We’re scared of what we might hear. After all, we largely perceive the response to reflect our employers’ true evaluation of us. Our self-worth, financial security, and even emotional health frequently thus are involved. The existence of important personal relationships also raises the ante.

These are substantial and fundamental interests. So there’s often a great deal at stake.

And if we lack knowledge about the process or the individuals involved, these interests appear even more at risk.

Here’s the deal. The more the negotiation matters, the more we fear its possible negative consequences. And vice versa.

Exploring the above and researching the process and individuals involved will lessen our anxiety. We can then more objectively analyze our capacity for risk and take appropriate action.

By contrast, walking into a negotiation with a vague fear of the unknown – especially when we perceive much at stake personally or professionally – can be paralyzing.

Minimize the likelihood your fears will come true. What’s the worst that will happen if you mess up the negotiation? Answer this question. Then take practical steps to improve the value of this alternative.

Let’s say you find the new car buying process frustrating because you dislike pressure and assume the salesperson wants to gouge you.

Yet you drive a lot for work and it makes financial sense to get a new car every five years given the repair bills that invariably occur then. Your worst likely alternative to getting a new car? Continuing to drive your five-year-old car and paying high repair bills.

What should you do?

Minimize the likelihood of paying high repair bills on your car – and thus lessen your perceived pressure and need – by purchasing a new car earlier than normal.

Also, investigate your area car dealerships and avoid those with hard sell, high-pressure reputations.

Taking these steps will minimize the likelihood your worst fear will occur and increase your comfort level.

Research standards that appear fair and reasonable to you and others. A big fear in many negotiations involves the evaluation of whether an offer is truly “fair and reasonable.” Many are comfortable accepting an offer if they believe it’s fair. But how do you decide?

Try this. Comprehensively research applicable independent standards like market value, precedent, tradition, expert opinions, costs and professional/industry standards.

If you’re evaluating the fairness of a raise, find out the market value of your services or determine the average percent raise your colleagues are receiving.

If you dislike buying cars, find out what the dealership paid for the car. Figuring their profit margin, you can then evaluate the fairness of their offer.

Also, research these standards with others. If your friends agree a certain standard or price is fair, you will be more likely to agree and remain comfortably firm on the issue. This will increase your confidence and decrease your angst.

Assess whether you’re the appropriate person to do the negotiation. Some individuals simply are not well suited for particular negotiations.

While these individuals can become more effective, they should consider – at the least – involving a negotiation coach in special circumstances.

For instance, some intensely dislike interpersonal conflict, even with strangers. Such conflict avoiders might use an agent to negotiate for them. This especially makes sense in tough zero-sum negotiations with strangers, where more for one side necessarily means less for the other. These negotiations often involve significant conflict.

Fear can overwhelm many negotiations. But effective planning, research and analysis can help you conquer this fear. Especially when fear is involved, preparation will make a world of difference.

Published September 28, 2001 The Business Journal

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