Negotiation is an important skill

Published 9:20 pm Saturday, January 21, 2017

Negotiation is an important skill in personal and professional relationships.  A successful negotiation requires two parties to come together with an agreement acceptable to both.  A person is not born with negotiation skills but they can be learned and developed. Some of the traits that need to be developed and honed are outlined below.

1.  Problem analysis —Make the determination of the interests of each party.  Agree on goals to be reached.

2.  Preparation —Become knowledgeable on the history of the relationship between the parties and any past negotiations to find areas of previous agreements. Prepare thoroughly for the meeting and decide if there are any compromises possible.

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3.  Be an active listener —Listen intently to the words as well as the body language displayed.  A skilled negotiator will listen more to the other party than they talk.  Listening can avoid an impasse.

4.  Control of emotions —When emotions are in control reason goes out the window.  The contentious issues discussed can be frustrating but avoid allowing emotions to take over.  Taking an “all or nothing” approach will shut down negotiations quicker than anything else and will cause negotiations to completely break down.

5.  Verbal communications —It is essential to be able to communicate clearly and succinctly.  Misunderstanding can occur easily if your case is not stated clearly and effectively. Be prepared to state your desired outcome.

6.  Collaboration and teamwork —The arrangement doesn’t have to be one side pitted against the other.  Possessing the skill of working together and fostering  collaboration will bring an atmosphere of teamwork in finding an agreeable solution.

7.  Problem Solving —Do not focus on just one solution.  There can be a variety of solutions to problems so being open minded is key.  Do not look at the situation only from your point of view.

8.  Decision making ability —You need the ability to act and react quickly and decisively.  In order to end a stalemate you should be ready to agree to a compromise.  Taking a lot of time to think about it doesn’t work in tense, difficult negotiations.

9.  Interpersonal skills —Maintaining a good working relationship with all involved in the negotiation process will bring better results.  Having patience and the ability of persuasion without manipulation will help maintain a positive atmosphere.

10.  Ethics and Professional Conduct —Ethical standards and reliability in an effective negotiator promotes a trusting environment for negotiations. Both sides must trust that the other party will follow through on promises and agreements.  A negotiator must have the skills to execute on promises after the bargaining ends.

Negotiation can be done with an adversarial relationship.  There are many conflicts to be dealt with in business dealings as well as personal relationships.  Life is a series of negotiations and decision making. You make offers, counter offers and  compromises on a regular basis.  You have to say “yes” or “no” and sometimes “maybe”.  You may stall for time or move quickly.  Making exchanges and bargaining on terms happens frequently.  The three P’s of negotiation are: PREPARE, PROBE, PROPOSE.  Sometimes the stakes are very high and many decisions are life changing.  Negotiations can involve money but often also have time or other commitments at stake.

The quality of your life can be affected dramatically by the success or failure of your negotiations. Sometimes you succeed and sometimes you don’t.  The negotiations that are the most important occur when you face inward ones with yourself.  You will have reached a milestone when you learn how to successfully negotiate with yourself.  Then we can best employ the positive behavioral strategies to influence and manage situations that we face.  It has been said that “the best way to get what you want is to help the other side get what they want.”

This crucial life skill can be developed successfully and utilized in all areas of your life.  Understanding ourselves and others will set up positive influences in our negotiations and result in agreements and relationships valuable to all parties involved. Always keep in mind that building and maintaining relationships is far more important than making one-time deals.  Ideally you want to have a “Win-win” outcome. A mutually beneficial result allows both sides to walk away satisfied, and likely to do business with one another again in the future.

Becky Vaughn-Furlow retired from Trustmark Bank as executive vice president and human resources director. She can be contacted by emailing