Negotiation is a basic life skill everyone needs to acquire in one way or another.
We might think that it's only reserved for the boardroom or for salary negotiations, but in reality we are all constantly negotiating with ourselves, our friends, our partners, and our colleagues on a daily basis. Deciding where to go for dinner is a minuscule form of negotiation, as is picking a date and location for a meeting, or selecting a dish off a restaurant menu.
By definition, any form of dialogue where two people are trying to resolve a common dilemma or make a decision can be considered a form of negotiation.
But until now, the kind of negotiations that have been recognized have been the ones involving money and politics. And the only negotiation style that has been recognized as valid by our society was the aggressive kind—the one that requires you to see the other party as an opponent and shift into attack mode.
Yet gone are the days when the only way to do business—or life for that matter—meant that you had to transform into some sort of wolf of Wall Street: suited and booted, antagonistic, and ready to step onto others to succeed.
Now, successful individuals are more likely to be seen in their casual wear and vegan leather sneakers and are placing more value in softer skills like mindfulness, empathy, and gratitude when it comes to negotiating. Why? Because both parties end up winning that way.
It all comes back to the idea of an attitude of scarcity versus one of abundance. We used to operate from the former, and placed more value in winning at any cost, rather than finding a solution that can benefit and add value to both negotiating parties. But as a collective, we can start to move towards a state of abundance by inviting the softer, more mindful sides of ourselves to enter the dance of negotiation.
This can only bring in positive changes, both in life and business. Think about it: When negotiating where to go for holiday with your partner, would you rather get your way but going on holiday with a moody, unhappy partner or pick a destination that meets both your criteria half way and go into your vacation with excitement? Similarly as an employer, it would be more beneficial to meet an employee's demands half way and keep them happy and motivated instead of winning a negotiation yet leaving them upset and no longer bothered to deliver.
The path to true success is clear and it requires a new, kinder attitude when it comes to the art of negotiation. Here are some tips to get started:
Remove the Judgment
Negotiations can be quite tense if you are purely thinking about your own interests and judging the other person instead of trying to understand where they are coming from. But if you try to see things from their perspective and understand their position, your levels of empathy will immediately rise and the judgment will be wiped away.
By evolving your understanding of negotiation into a collaboration of sorts instead of looking at it as a tug of war that only one person can win, the experience itself will become more pleasant, and you will be twice as likely to come up with a win-win outcome.
Practice Active Listening
A big part of achieving this mindset shift comes back to mindfulness, meaning being present and practicing active listening during your negotiation. It's so common for people to drift off and start thinking about their comeback answer instead of actually listening to the points the other person is making. This leads to things getting lost in translation, everyone talking over one another, and no one feeling heard, understood, or satisfied.
By making a conscious choice to pay attention and actively listen to others when negotiating or having any form of dialogue, not only will you be in a better position to understand others' points and motives, but you will be twice as likely to come up with the right answers to their questions and demands.
Use the Power of Journaling and Visualization
Before going into a negotiation, whether it's a much-awaited conversation about the promotion you've been dreaming about or a personal discussion, take some time alone to visualize how this meeting will look like: What are you wearing? Where are you sitting down to talk? How do you feel?
If you picture yourself smiling, looking confident, and enjoying the discussion, it's inevitable that you will enter that meeting emanating positive energy and putting the other person at ease, too.
Putting pen to paper can make a visualization that much more powerful, so try journaling about your expectations, your desired outcome, and any dilemmas you have about upcoming negotiations you have to tackle. Ahead of said negotiation, you can start your morning by writing down your intention to hold positive dialogues and reach mutually beneficial solutions in the morning section of your Five Minute Journal.
In the evening, go back to the “What did I learn today?” question and reflect on how it all went: What part of the experience are you satisfied with and grateful for, what did you learn, and where could you improve your approach? By being self-reflective instead of criticizing others, you assume control of the situation and allow yourself more room to grow and succeed.
Know When to Walk Away
The definition of success itself is also something to reassess and reimagine. Success can mean getting what you want, but it can equally mean acknowledging that what you were striving for is no longer right for you and letting it go.
In the world of negotiation, this could mean pulling out of a negotiation with a potential employer or investor if you realize that your values and needs are far removed from one another; or acknowledging that what you were initially asking for was a little far-fetched and adjusting your expectations. That doesn't mean admitting defeat, but adapting to the waves of changes coming your way and staying agile and resilient.
“The goals you identify must be constructed with the knowledge that they will be put forward in a negotiation—so they will likely change as the conversation develops. This is, after all, the purpose and true meaning of negotiation,” said Erin Gleason Alvarez, a former lawyer and current CEO of Take Charge Negotiations, a company which coaches individuals on how to negotiate mindfully.