You can negotiate better

You can negotiate better

How well you negotiate depends largely on how powerful or weak your position is. In the ‘Battle of Brexit’, Britain is in a weak, but not hopeless, position. The balance of power is not good enough to get exactly what the most dedicated Brexiteers want. So they refused to compromise. Now they are having to, as they have merely weakened their own positions. The first rule of negotiating is know your own and your opponents’ positions. Only when you are thoroughly sure of these should you start. Then ask for what you want firmly, politely and reasonably. It’s amazing what this sort of approach will achieve.

Know the point at which you will walk away from the negotiation. You mustn’t threaten it and not use it. So be clear, you can only effectively do it once. Skill in negotiation is significantly about time. If there is a fire, lose no time. If it doesn’t matter how long it takes, the more patient person will probably win. Wear and tear are powerful tools when you want something. Children know this. It doesn’t always work.

Mrs May thought it would work with her parliamentarians. It didn’t. The reason was fanaticism. Right Wing Brexiteers had kidded the public to think that Britain and Britons would be wealthier, personally and as a country, as well as free from Brussels bureaucracy. The facts were not made available so the conclusion is not surprising. Rule 2 remains ‘Wait and keep them waiting’. My old ‘speaking’ teacher taught me this ”Make ‘em laugh, make ‘em cry, but above all make ‘em wait”. It was good advice.

Knowing the personalities of the other side is useful but should not be a main prop of your negotiating effort. Focusing on the issue is always more rewarding.  In their excellent book ‘Getting to Yes’ Roger Fisher and William Ury advise ‘focus on the problem rather than the personalities, explore underlying interests rather than explicit positions, consider options that may open up scope for mutual benefits’. Good advice. Of course, how you apply all this in a particular situation determines the success or otherwise of the negotiation. My own mantra is always ask questions rather than state facts and positions. You don’t win if all you achieve is a greater ego. Important to listen as the other side sell themselves your views. When they are talking you are winning.

Remain cool. If they provoke you, lie about you, insinuate nasty things about you, it is just their way of negotiating. Britain has (in spite of Brexit) a good name for successful negotiation. It is because the Brits know how to remain cool. The negotiations I have lost in my life have all been down to not remaining cool. When I keep my composure, I win. So my advice here is stay cool or you’ll end up a fool. When the opposition knows your weakness is to heat up, they have the advantage.

Keep it light. Some negotiations are very serious. If they are about awarding a new airworthy certificate to the Boeing Max aircraft they are bound to be serious. Many people lost their lives in this.  But you should still keep your negotiation as light as possible. If you do so you will appear reasonable and sane. Light and Polite is the advice here.

The other side are under at least as great pressure as you. Talk with your team about the oppositions’ pressures – rather than yours – and you may have a creative idea. A massive takeover bid for one of the biggest food companies in Europe was averted by making a counter bid. End of negotiation. You avert pressure from your side by aiming high.

The process of negotiation involves compromise. It’s where you start the two ends of the negotiation that determines where the middle is. Put your end as high as possible even at the risk of seeming unreasonable.

The fastest way to learn how to negotiate is to run through some roleplay negotiations. They should be specially written to reflect the industry and situation that the negotiators are in. I know of no faster way to learn how to negotiate. Firm but friendly gets the best results.

May your negotiating be fruitful.