Negotiation, An Essential Life Skill

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Negotiation.  You either love it or hate.  Some people love to argue, try to influence and find a way to win.  Others avoid it, almost at any cost.  Having to confront somebody and risk getting into conflict makes them very uncomfortable.  If this is you, I highly recommend a terrific book by Chris Voss:  Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It.

Chris knows a thing or two about negotiation, he used to be the FBI’s chief hostage negotiator.  The book is sprinkled with fascinating real life stories.  Chris had to win because the stakes were usually very high.  Offering half the money in return for only shooting half the hostages, would not go down well.

Three step approach

In the book Chris outlines a three step approach for any negotiation:

  1. Build the relationship.  If you find yourself at odds with another person start by building trust and establishing relationship.  This may involve listening and acknowledging the other person’s situation.  You don’t have to agree with it, but you can empathize and show you understand.
  2. Uncover motivation.  Once you have established the relationship, now you can explore what is motivating the other person.  What is it they really care about?  It might have nothing to do with the current situation.  Ask powerful open questions to start the conversation.  For example, “I can tell this is very important to you, why is that?”  Keep asking questions until you fully understand their point of view.
  3. Make relevant offers.  Now you understand their motivation, start to make some offers that relate to what is important to them.  In doing this, don’t lower your ask, instead look for ways to offer something new to them.  Look for the win:win.

Practice and you might just learn to love negotiation

Once you start to see negotiation as a process, it will get easier.  By practicing the process you will increase your skill over time.  I recommend you start small with a low risk negotiation and build up from there.  When you start by building up the relationship, I think you’ll be very surprised how your views of other people change.  Rather than see them as the enemy.  You might just start to see them as who they are, another person with different needs than you.