Are you a negotiator?
Everyone encounters several negotiation situations each day, every day. Yet, most people think of a negotiator as someone who can manipulate people into getting what they want. A soulless businessperson, a sleazy politician, that sales associate who sold you that pair of expensive jeans that were too tight to sit and breathe at the same time. (And, no, they did not “stretch out” after wearing them for a few hours.)
We ran a survey asking what people thought about negotiation, some commented on it being a “struggle” to close the deal. Negotiation was something to be avoided. One person even said, negotiation was like war. War! Okay, sometimes negotiation does lead to actual wars, but most of us, the wars are purely metaphorical. Like, the war against too-tight jeans.
People tend to think of negotiation as something you do when you go to buy a car, or a house, or negotiate world peace. It’s what you do to get a better salary when you get hired.
Negotiation is so much more.
In reality, negotiation is so much more. If you talk to people, you probably negotiate many times a day. The Oxford Dictionary defines a negotiation as a “discussion aimed at reaching an agreement.”
How many times a day do you have to reach an agreement with someone?
- Your kid has to agree to get dressed for school in the morning.
- Your spouse has to agree to pick up the kids from school.
- Your boss has to agree to let you have a more flexible work schedule today.
- Your co-worker wants to change the project strategy you already agreed upon.
- Your desk-mate keeps eating really crunchy chips and you want them to stop so you can concentrate.
- Your friend wants to go for a walk during lunch, but you just want to get a sandwich…
This all happens before lunch. Your day is FILLED with negotiation situations. As it turns out, you are a negotiator after all. Everyone is.
Here are the types of negotiation situations:
Not Knowing That You’re Negotiating Can Get You Intro Trouble
Why is it important to acknowledge yourself as a negotiator, even for everyday situations? Chris Voss likes to say, “The most dangerous negotiation is the one you don’t know you’re in.” And he’s right. These are the ones that get you in trouble.
I didn’t realize what this meant for a long time, and even though I had been making progress on my skill development, when it came to everyday negotiation situations I’d forget to actually use those skills. So things like asking for colleagues to help on a project turned into heated debates as to why they needed to help and why it was necessary to do the project in the first place.
Once I realized that it was important to use negotiation skills in most negotiations, things started to shift. First they started to shift at home, where 80% of negotiations happen. Instead of asking my family to do things, I set upon inviting them to solve problems with me. “Can you cook dinner tonight?” became “I’m really busy with work today, what can we do about dinner?” to which he ordered some food.
This approach actually improved the relationship, because I wasn’t forcing expectations on my partner. Intuitively, it seemed faster just to blurt out my needs, but that would always end up in an adversarial conversation. It seems like it would take longer to approach every ask like a negotiation, but you never know when it’s going to turn into an all out hostage situation.
Recognizing Negotiation Situations Takes Practice
Identifying situations where you need to negotiate takes practice. They’re not all obvious. Sometimes asking your kid to clean their room is as complex as a multinational environmental treaty. That’s why developing negotiation skills is critical to a fulfilling life… because in the end, it’s all about the quality of relationships and the work we do together.