The Art of the Negotiation

12 June 2018 12:11

The photo opportunity said it all - two world leaders meeting. How did the negotiations get to this stage and where do we go from here?

Leaders probably negotiate more than other people but negotiation is part of everyday life for all of us. It is inherent to human behaviour, from the very early days of exchanging something for something else. It's about the perceived value of one item compared to another.

Western culture, however, is eroding the art of negotiation through our modern ways of conducting trade and commerce, i.e. setting a price for goods and services, such as in supermarkets.

It could be argued that the more choice we have, the less likely we are to barter because we can get the same or similar product for a different price elsewhere. If you like listening to podcasts, then The Bottom Line from the BBC has an excellent an episode on negotiation.

Negotiation is still important to our everyday life though - whether that be in the family environment, the work situation, or the political field.

What's it all about?

Negotiation experts, from trade negotiators to hostage negotiators, say the fundamental art of negotiation is to come away from the table with a "win-win" situation that is sustainable. And this comes down to the subject of one of our other articles a couple of weeks ago - the skill of listening.

Only by listening to and understanding the other side can we successfully negotiate a deal that benefits everybody. Negotiation is not about getting one over on the other side. It is about reaching an agreement that both sides are happy with.

A famous parable about negotiation involves two sisters who each want an orange but they only have one. Only by understanding what each wants with the orange can a successful negotiation be reached. One of the sisters wants the rind for a cake and the other wants the segments to make a juice.

Where do negotiations start?

The starting point of any negotiation is in the preparation. That means knowing what you want and researching what the other party wants. If you are not sure or cannot find out what they want, then let them open the negotiations so that you can get a better feel for the land. Otherwise you are strategically better placed if you open the negotiations as this will ensure you come from a position of strength.

How do we start negotiating?

Don't go in with your final offer straight away. If you show your hand right at the start then you have nowhere to manoeuvre. You will get stuck and negotiations will stall. Be willing to give in the right areas and change your needs if the other side offers something unexpected. And be prepared to put discussions on hold if you need to do more work.

Never lie though. Don't say, "this is my final offer" if you know that it's not. If you are found out, you will lose credibility, you will lose the trust you have built up, and you may as well hand over the negotiations to someone else.

Every negotiation is unique. You may have to navigate several pathways, including cultural, social, hierarchical, political and many more to mention here. The key is to come away thinking that you've gained something and for the other side to feel they have gained something too.

What about North Korea and the USA then?

With the USA/North Korea negotiations, Kim Jong-un got what he wanted at the beginning of the year when the US President spontaneously agreed to meet the North Korean Leader. By that acknowledgment that he was even worth meeting, Mr Kim was catapulted onto the global stage and now has met, or is scheduled to meet, the leaders of China, Russia, Syria, South Korea and the USA.

For someone who professes to be a "deal maker", the US President doesn't seem to have understood what the North Korean Leader wanted and thus capitulated to his request very early on. No other US President has given a leader from North Korea the privilege of a meeting. If things go well, just imagine - Kim Jong-un visiting the Whitehouse!

Navigating your future negotiations

To help you work out what you want in your negotiations and to understand what the other side needs, then your coach will be an independent voice who will ask you those questions that you have not thought of and help you develop your negotiating strategy.

If you don't have your own coach yet, then e-mail Chris on [email protected] to find out how he can help and support you professionally.


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