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Negotiation as part of our everyday lives

Based on the SA FM Radio podcast interview with Elmarie Pretorius, Managing Owner of The Mindspa Institute, on developing our personal negotiation skills.

Elmarie Pretorius says that negotiation skills are a real critical skill set everyone should acquire. She explains that “negotiation skills are methods we need to use to settle differences.” It’s a skill we all need to avoid arguments and settle disputes. Although we always associate these types of skills as being part of the business world, we don’t seem to realise just how much we need and use negotiation skills as a part of our personal and daily lives. If you think about it, life is one big negotiation journey.

There might be some good or bad negotiators out there, but the good news is that negotiation skills can be learned or further developed.  

What are the tools that make for better negotiation?

People are naturally afraid of confrontation usually confusing a conflict situation with a negotiation process. Many think that if they “win” a conflict situation, they have negotiated well. But negotiation is a process where we try to avoid conflict. Thus, conflict is a win-lose situation whereas negotiation, in its true sense, is a win-win situation. Here are some tools that might come in handy:

  • Don’t pre-empt fear of conflict, rejection or refusal. No one has said NO yet, but still, we don’t even try because we anticipate this response. Try to get over the fear of conflict, rejection, or refusal by mindfully persuading yourself that you “deserve”, “need” or “want” something. Don’t be afraid to take the leap and ask for it. What is the worst that can happen? It can just result in a negotiation process.
  • Remain calm and flexible. Be composed, relaxed, open-minded and flexible. If you remain calm, you are automatically more reasonable, and your reaction will resonate with the other party. And if you have flexibility, on top of calmness, you can change a potentially conflicting situation to a process of negotiation. When you go into negotiation with flexibility in mind, you automatically give the other party flexibility as well. 
  • Learn to listen. It might seem obvious, but a lot of people don’t realise it. We talk too much and listen too little. Use listening as an advantage to get the information you need. The golden rule in the negotiation process is to listen 70% of the time and talk 30%. If you know what the other party’s concerns are by actively listening to them, you will be able to come up with mutually beneficial solutions. 
  • Ask the “good” questions. Determine the areas of concern and pinpoint what the other party needs in return to be satisfied. Going into a negotiation with enough and accurate knowledge about the situation lays the foundation from the start to get a desired result.

Negotiation for salary increases:

During the interview, the presenter touched on the subject of salary increases and the differences between how men and women handle the negotiation process. She explained that an article she read stated that many women will come out with a marginal salary increase whereas their male counterparts will come out to close to a 25% increase, if not more, all based on what they were able to say during their salary negotiations. Elmarie reiterated that although we might be generalising, most women might go into the negotiation process with a low self-value. Many women actually “bargain themselves down” before even getting to the negotiation table. They don’t think that they deserve the increase or that they are of high value to the team. 

Furthermore, she continues to explain that both men and women, in many cases, think that management will “see” their value and then acknowledge it with a salary increase. Many employees purely hope that if they work hard, the boss will automatically “reward” them, and therefore they do not need to ask or negotiate a promotion or salary increase. 

Elmarie’s advice is to stop being prideful and be brave. We often think that being “humble” during a performance appraisal will get us the desired results. But this, in many cases will do quite the opposite. Being brave and voicing our opinions and ideas especially in meetings will fuel the negotiation process. It is extremely important to stand up for yourself and to take credit where it is due. Make sure people know what you contributed. Elmarie says it is all about confidence at the end of the day and the ability to use our voices. 

Common issues during negotiation:

  • Emotional intelligence – is a common issue while negotiating. Negotiation is linked to the ability to strip yourself of emotion. It is about going into the negotiation process and not take everything said, personally. Easier said than done, we know, but during negotiations, all parties involved should not focus on their emotions but concentrate and deal with the facts at hand. 
  • Correct problem identification – we don’t identify the real problem or issue. We might think that we understand the problem, but we are simply looking at the problem’s surface value. We get so caught up in other issues or side-tracked that we don’t identify the core or true nature of the problem. Albert Einstein said, “If I had an hour to solve a problem, I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and 5 minutes about solutions.” It’s simple really…if the problem is identified correctly the solution will become obvious. 

Advice before sitting around a negotiation table:

  • Before any negotiation process is entered into, the profound question needing an answer should be, “is it a problem that needs to be solved?” or “a truth that needs to be accepted?” Simply put, not all things have a solution or can be changed. Make sure that what you want to negotiate, can actually be changed.
  • Always take the interest of both parties into account. Make sure that you offer something to the other party that will be attractive for them. There needs to be something in it for both parties in order for the negotiation to be a win-win scenario. 
  • Work on your self-confidence. We often talk down to ourselves, something we wouldn’t necessarily do with our friends or family. Confidence is a skill that you can learn and develop. Equip yourself with knowledge and skills and make a choice to be confident. We have power over our minds. 

Negotiating is the process by which two or more parties with different needs and goals work to find a mutually acceptable solution to an issue. Because negotiating is an inter-personal process, each negotiating situation is different and influenced by each party’s skills, attitude, and style. It is a process by which a compromise or an agreement is reached while avoiding an argument or a dispute.

Negotiation isn’t limited to “big decisions.” When you’re working with other people, much of your time is spent negotiating – even if it’s just deciding whose turn it is to collect the coffee! For projects to be successful, roles, strategies, targets, and deadlines all need to be agreed upon, ideally to everyone’s satisfaction.

Enrol in The Mindspa Institute’s Negotiation Skills Training course where we will address the following frequently asked questions:

  • Why negotiation is important?
  • What are negotiation techniques?
  • What negotiation means?
  • Situations where negotiation is needed?
  • Which negotiation strategies are most successful?

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