What do my wife, kids, parents, co-workers, clients, vendors, and sales professionals have in common with North Korea’s Kim Jong-Un, China’s Xi Jinping, members of Congress, Fortune 500 CEOs, and even the President of the United States?

They all regularly rely on negotiation skills to achieve success, both professionally and personally. Negotiation is a fundamental life skill and core competency in almost everything we do.

Whenever two or more individuals are communicating regarding possible shared interests, they’re negotiating.

Yet despite these enormous stakes and the solid research in the negotiation field, the vast majority of people still largely negotiate off-the-cuff. The problems and losses as a result are literally incalculable – economically, personally and in lives and lost opportunities.

Why do the vast majority of folks – even those who negotiate for a living – do it mostly by instinct without regard to the proven research?

First, it’s exceedingly difficult to change behavior, especially if it’s been ingrained since childhood (when you were working your parents off against each other, right?). It’s even more difficult to change that behavior in business or law school or after individuals have started their professional careers. Of course, that is where most negotiation courses are first offered.

Negotiation is a fundamental life skill and core competency in almost everything we do. Kids who learn negotiation skills, will benefit for a lifetime.

Second, negotiation is a relatively new academic field that only took off in 1981 with the publication of the classic Getting to Yes: Negotiating Without Giving In by my law school professor Roger Fisher and his colleague Bill Ury.

Since then, it has taken time for the field to mature and for the research to get to where negotiation professors have some consensus regarding the fundamental skills to be taught. At this point, I believe about 80% of what we now teach is largely the same (despite using widely different terminology for it).

Finally, there are an unlimited number of variables in almost all negotiations. As a result, even with training, the bottom line impact of such training is not immediately apparent to many. Of course, we know the impact based on the solid research. But it’s tough to prove in professional environments.

So what should be done?

1. Require negotiation and conflict resolution courses early

We are starting to teach conflict resolution and negotiation in K-12 schools. This needs to be ramped up and required. Personal and professional success on many levels depend on being able to effectively communicate and negotiate with our fellow human beings.

In an increasingly digital and intercultural world, we will lose this battle if we don’t educate our kids early and often. That’s a big part in how you change behavior.

At the least, these courses should be required in college and graduate school. There’s no excuse for law and MBA graduates not having learned fundamental negotiation skills.

2. Teach negotiation to your kids

It will be enormously difficult to get schools to add this to their curriculums – and we can’t wait. So teach your kids this fundamental life skill.

A side benefit will be improving your own skills. After all, you can’t teach what you don’t know.

3. Ramp up your life-long learning

Don’t just check the box if you attended a negotiation training course or seminar recently or in school years ago. I have been studying, teaching and training negotiation full-time for almost 25 years – and I’m still learning.

Just last weekend I attended a session by a Yale Management Professor and learned a fascinating new way to fairly divide up the expanded negotiation pie in large deals.

One way to easily do this is with weekly visits to my new and regularly updated Latz Negotiation Resource Center at www.ExpertNegotiator.com (it’s also free!).

Related Resources:

Make your personal life-long learning a reality.

Latz’s Lesson: Off-the-cuff negotiating is our enemy. So let’s defeat it in our schools, at home and with life-long learning.  

Marty Latz is the founder of Latz Negotiation, a national negotiation training and consulting company that helps individuals and organizations achieve better results with best practices based on the experts’ research. He can be reached at 480.951.3222 or Marty@LatzNegotiation.com.

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