The art of negotiating

Life is about dealing with other people and their interests and, as such, there will be thousands of times when those interests will not be shared with us. Negotiation will come in place. There are people that master this art (as it is an art) and others that just, lets say, ruin every possible deal the very second they open their mouth…or even before.

Years of dealing with people has shown me a few ways of negotiating and, let me tell you, most often than not things have been positive…and not just for me but for everybody. The following are just a few thoughts that can be used. However, the list is not completed as things changed while we are learning. There is always something to learn.

Prepare and have a strategy

You can not go to a meeting without knowing what you are going to be discussing or what situation you may be confronted with. If you dont prepare almost all your chances to have a deal will jump out out of the windows not sooner the conversation begins. Knowing what you will be dealing with will also set boundaries as in what you are willing to give and take. I have been in meetings where my partners (or the other side) did not have a clue what we were going to talk about…there is nothing more embarrassing than the awkward moment where you have to start from scratch just to make sure that people around the table know their points. Arriving to the meeting looking like they have been abducted until that very moment is not in the best of their interests.

You can not always win, forget you ego

There are people that can not take a “no” for an answer or can not just admit defeat. I’d recommend to those people not to be part of a negotiating process. There are times where you just have to let go things in an attempt to gain something later (thus your strategy). If your ego is so big as that you have to be above everybody else, please leave the negotiating room (or don’t even come close).

Win-win situation

Linked to the previous point, there is nothing more rewarding for all the parts when everybody leaves the room with the feeling that the deal reached is positive for everybody. If you want to win always without considering that the other side may want to take something away, you may do it once but chances are that there will not be more opportunities to do business again with the same person / company. The perfect business is the one in which everybody wins.


Listen to what the other side has to say

Nobody is perfect neither not everybody is always right. The people with whom you are going to be negotiating will have done their homework and will try to persuade you. In these occasions they may twist the original offer, give you additional ideas or try to change the over all strategy. You may find that, by letting the other people speak you both may come to a more positive and business-rewarding deal than the one you could have reached only with the original proposition. Always listen, there is nothing to lose.

Don’t burn your bridges

While doing business is part of the overall negotiation you don’t want to be so inflexible that will not let you go back to a position where you can continue negotiating if things go the wrong way. You don’t want the other side to leave the table feeling that there is not possible to reach a deal…now nor in the future. The best deals may not be in the current table but could be around the corner in the next business deal.

Don’t get personal

Someone may think that I don’t need to include this point…sorry, but I have seen some people being so hard in the negotiation that are reaching the personal level. If someone in your team reaches this point just stop the meeting for a moment, take a break, compose yourselves and get back trying to get things on track again. Nobody wants to get personal, especially if the desired deal is not being reached…getting personal will only make the negotiation impossible. Remember, it is only business.

Be aware of culture

When you are an international traveler you will find yourself dealing with people that will not have your background. While this may be surprised to many, no all the negotiations at business level are done the same (let alone at street – personal level, that is a complete different world all together).

Depending on the part of the world that you are you will have to change your way of thinking and dealing. In some places silence means as much as words. There are places where a tea or something to bite previous to the meeting will be compulsory. Latins have the habit of interrupting each other very often while this is totally unacceptable in East Asia…mainly because the verb is at the end of the phrase and, should you cut the other person have way through what he/she is saying will make you not understand what they are trying to address (if you are talking the same language and not using a translator that is).

There will also be occasions in which you will not have an agreement on the table. Some cultures take the discussions to their “homes” to get back to you at a later stage, while in some countries they will make you stay on the table for as long as it is needed until an agreement is reached. I think this is the worst method, by far, as I doubt that after a 14 – 18 hour negotiation people on the table will still have their abilities to agree sensibly.

Smile, look at their eyes…and be kind

And this is one of the points that has more effect when taking to others. You can always negotiate and argue but if you do it nicely and trying to be on the other people shoes, chances are that the final situation will be a win-win. There is nothing more exhausting than negotiating with someone who doesn’t understand that dealing with people is also dealing with emotions. When you smile at someone while you speak it has a psychological effect, connecting somehow, creating bonds that will make easier the negotiation for both. Also, you should be careful the way you speak. Speaking in a way that shows kindness and transmits true interest on both sides will transform what originally seemed like an impossible deal into something easy.

Leave in style

Of course, should the negotiation not go the way you want and you feel that you really need to leave that table, do it with style. Thank for the time spent and the efforts as, after all, the other side has been there trying to reach a deal. Sometimes things just don’t work, so better leave in cordial ways rather than storming out thinking that you have wasted your time. The lost deal today could be the seed for future business opportunities and, who knows, those could be even better.

With these tips I am not saying that every negotiation will be easy for everybody, but surely it will help even in the more difficult circumstances.


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