How to Gracefully Approach Negotiation
There are few of us who are born knowing how to negotiate at all, let alone gracefully. It is a skill you can learn though and having knowledge in this area will help you move forward confidently in your career. It is easy to think of negotiation only applying to your initial offer—and it is an important part of that process, but you will find you use negotiation tactics in multiple stages of your career. Whether it is that first offer, collaborating with clients, organizing internal teams, or setting a price on goods and/or services, these skills will only benefit you.
Know what you want
If you know exactly what you want, it’s much easier to stand your ground. In any situation where you are going to need to negotiate, preparation is key. So do not walk into a conversation with a vague idea of your desired final result. Is this a salary and benefits conversation? Know exactly what range you are willing to work in and what benefits you expect. Are you discussing costs with a client or internal team? Know exactly what margins you have to work in and what the final product will be. Floundering at the start is a waste of time. Do your prep beforehand, and you will be in good shape to make the most of the conversation.
One of the best ways to approach a negotiation is to tell the truth. The most successful partnerships are built on honesty. This does not mean you have to share everything but go into these conversations remembering you are working toward a common goal, whatever that may be. Keep in mind that in an ideal negotiation scenario, you are both going to walk away winners.
Do not fill the silence when you could be listening
There is a scene in 30 Rock where Jack, an experienced businessperson, is outmaneuvered by his childcare worker who, when he attempts to lower her salary, does not respond. She simply waits until he has talked himself into a corner, and he ends up paying her exactly what she wants. It is natural to want to fill silence, but do not. If you give the other person the opportunity to speak, you will likely get the information you want or the result you are looking for. But you have to be comfortable letting someone else have the floor. Honestly, not saying anything at all can be one of the most effective tools in your negotiation arsenal.
Think about the other person and what they need
You are under a lot of pressure to get this deal done, but what about the other person? When you only focus on your own thing, it can consume you, and you can give away the control you have in this situation. Instead, think about what this other person needs. Can you provide the solution they are looking for? Then you are both in a position where there is a desired outcome that benefits each party. Let them know you are able to provide their desired outcome just as they can provide yours. As we discussed earlier, you can both win.
Optimism has benefits that reach far beyond the negotiation table. Practice that positive thinking about the outcome of your negotiation, and it really could help you reach your desired results. After all, “successful negotiation requires positive energy and the creation of an environment that encourages cooperation.”
Know when to walk away and be fine doing it
This is not the result you wanted—what you wanted is for both parties to come to an agreement. But sometimes that does not happen. If a client cannot afford your services, if an internal budget will not allow you to complete the project, or if you just cannot work comfortably within an offered salary, you must always, always be willing to walk away. If you are trying for an outcome at all costs, the likelihood it will cost you more than you are willing to give is extremely high.
Negotiation is not easy, but it is not something you will be able to avoid. No matter what position you are in at your company, there will be a time when you will need to use these negotiation skills to reach a mutually beneficial goal.