5 ways to… become an all-star negotiator

Five steps to better negotiation

March is International Women’s Month, and the gender pay gap is under more scrutiny than ever. One common explanation is that men are socialised to be better at negotiating. The jury’s out on that interpretation, but the fact is – male or female – strong negotiators get ahead.

  1. Adopt the appropriate mindset. At its most extreme, negotiation is either competitive (each side fighting for the biggest slice of pie) or collaborative (working together to grow the pie). Both are appropriate, depending on the other person’s mindset and your relationship. Decide which approach works best for the situation and be prepared to change as the negotiation proceeds.
  2. Overcome your blocks. Reflect on why previous negotiations have broken down. Whether it’s down to unreasonable requests, unclear goals, incorrect assumptions or emotions, identifying what gets in the way will help you prepare for and overcome it next time.
  3. Explore interests. Even if your wishes seem poles apart, when you dig deeper you may uncover shared interests. Look at the situation from the other person’s side and explore their underlying concerns. Then work together to come up with a solution that’ll satisfy you both. At the very least they’ll appreciate you trying to understand their perspective.
  4. Build a strong best alternative. Be clear about what will happen if you can’t reach a deal. Whichever party has the strongest best alternative usually holds the power. Knowing yours will help you approach the conversation confidently, and know when to walk away.
  5. Use your negotiables. Reaching a deal isn’t down to money only. By finding out as much as you can about the other person’s situation and interests, you can uncover other sources of value with which to negotiate. Time, quality and scope of brief all enter the equation: be flexible with yours to build the strongest offer possible.
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