Want to Be a Better Negotiator? Do What Comes Naturally to You

When it comes to my sartorial style, it could probably be best described as a combination of vintage and modern. The same is true for how I’ve furnished my home. This combination wasn’t a calculated decision. It’s just how I’ve always been. 

I started shopping in vintage stores in high school – long before it was the “in” thing to do. I can vividly remember the day, in the early 90s, when  I purchased my dining room pieces from an antique store – when such stores were in abundance in Ft. Greene and along Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn. I got a dark cherry wood table with six chairs, a breakfront, a sideboard, and a buffet table. All of this for a price that was less than a table with four chairs I was planning to purchase from a famous furniture store. 27 years later, I still have every piece, and each is still gorgeous. 

When I was writing last week’s post about style, I started thinking about this tendency of mine to combine seemingly disparate things. Because it shows up in my approach to negotiating, as well. It’s why I would describe my dominant style as collaboration. This parallel regarding my style fits with the message, “How you do one thing is how you do everything.”  

Not only is this true where your style is concerned,  I believe it applies when it comes to your negotiation skills, too. Meaning a skill you exhibit doing “x” will likely be the same skill you tap into when you are negotiating.

So if your style represents the “how” in terms of your approach to getting to a mutually beneficial agreement, your skills represent the “what.” 

Every negotiation requires this combination of style (how) and skill (what) regardless of whether you consider the substance of the negotiation “small” or “large.” Or, whether you consider your relationship to the other party significant or not.

And based on the two previous pieces of this series, what I’m about to say shouldn’t come as a surprise: Notice the skills you practice in situations “outside” of negotiating scenarios, so you can be intentional about applying some of those skills when you do negotiate. 

Skills Here; Skills There

I’ve said this previously, but it bears repeating, if you “dissect” a negotiation, you are likely to identify the following list of skills: analysis; preparation; active listening; emotional control; social skills; problem-solving; decision-making; and communication.

These are skills you probably practice, to some degree, in your everyday life “outside” of negotiating scenarios. Let’s see how:

  • Analysis
    It’s probably easier to ask you what part of your day doesn’t include some sort of analysis than to ask what does. From the moment you wake up, you are weighing and examining data, options and potential outcomes against the back-drop of an intended goal. Some days that is as simple as, “Which subway line will get me there faster?” or “Which route should I drive?” Other days, it’s much more complex, “We finally found a school where our child with special needs thrives; where is the tuition money going to come from?”
  • Preparation
    In other words, do you get “ready” for what you want? Said differently, do you set goals; do you set boundaries: do you set expectations; do you arm yourself with information; do you think through possible outcomes? Do you assess the resources you’ll need?
  • Active listening
    Do you pay attention to both what is said as well as what isn’t? Do you also tune into body language, which includes tone when speaking by phone? Are you using open-ended questions as a way of listening to understand? Do you stay present by monitoring your self-talk?
  • Emotional control
    Do you keep your emotions in check when you feel slighted? Maybe someone bumps into you and they don’t apologize. Or, maybe someone skips the line – as if you aren’t waiting, too. Sure, it pissed you off, but did you choose to respond in a calm, controlled manner.
  • Social skills
    This is somewhat related to emotional control and communication, but it is largely about being aware of your “environment.” Do you pause before speaking to weigh the impact of your words? Do you consider cultural norms (or expectations) as you interact with people?
  • Problem-solving
    What solution are you working on today? There is something you’re trying to figure out the answer to, or that you are trying to fix. There is some gap you’re trying to close. What you do and how in the space between “here” and “there” — that’s problem-solving.
  • Make a decision
    You may not always like the decisions you feel you have to make. But you make them – in fact, you make several on any given day.
  • Communication
    This is where all of the above comes together, really. Communication is about talking, messaging, making a connection, and making a decision. But to hear and be heard, you have to be clear and work on minimizing misunderstandings.

Negotiating & StrengthsFinder?

I’ll leave it to those of you reading that are StrengthsFinder coaches to confirm this: But, I look at the skills noted above, along with the elements of style we discussed last time, and I can’t help but think of the insight you get from the StrengthsFinder assessment. How this is a tool to help you double down on what comes naturally to you. Have you taken this assessment? 

I have. And, of the 34, here are my top 5 five, in order: Learner, Input, Achiever, Strategic, Relator. To me, these scream (confirm?) collaborator as my style, and reflect a combination of all the skills listed above.

In the world according to me, negotiating isn’t a skill you master and never need to improve. It’s something you continuously get a chance to work on and get better at. Knowing this and being willing to do the work is fantastic, and is precisely why I wrote this and this. 

That said…

I find that far too often people look everywhere but right in front of them for clues on how to get better at the thing they want to improve. 

Including negotiating. 

So, how fitting that for something I believe you do every day, in every way, I’d suggest paying attention to those instances when you aren’t negotiating. How is your style showing up? What skills are you practicing? 

TL:DR Lean into what comes naturally to you as a way to improve your negotiating mindset, style, and skills.

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