The other day I met up with an old friend. Our plan was to eat together. He suggested dining at an Italian restaurant, but coming from an Italian family I know how difficult it is to find good Italian food. I didn’t want to eat at some random Italian restaurant. Thai was my suggestion. Bu my friend has spent a lot of time in Thailand and wasn’t confident that we’d find a restaurant nearby serving quality food. French was his counter suggestion. French restaurants are as patchy as Italian in Australia. Vietnamese was my next suggestion.
We were unable to agree on any option and soon found ourselves wandering aimlessly around town, looking at menus with my friend vetoing my suggestions and I, his. Finally we settled on a pub. Neither of us was particularly satisfied with the meal, although we did enjoy seeing each other. However we failed to negotiate a satisfactory outcome to either party. The art of negotiation is tricky. Is negotiating part of your job? Do you negotiate at home with family members? Is it possible to learn to be a better negotiator? After my night out wandering from restaurant to restaurant, I decided to research the art of negotiating. I’d love to share with you what I learnt.
Ed Brodow is a negotiation specialist in the United States. He has ten key tips.
One, he says you must know what you want, what your ideal outcome is. I knew I didn’t want to eat Italian or French, but what did I really want to eat, Thai or Vietnamese? My primary goal was to eat a fresh, nutritious meal. I could have been more flexible and agreed to go to a modern French place.
Two, be quiet and listen to what the other person is saying. My friend had spent a lot of time in Asia on business. Maybe if I’d listened he’d have told me he was hanging out for a meal that didn’t come with rice or noodles – he’d eat anything but Thai or Vietnamese.
Three, do your homework before negotiating any deal. When it comes to my dinner example perhaps I should have asked my friend how much time he’d spent abroad in recent years. I would have realised he needed a change from Asian food.
Four, always be willing to walk away. I was hardly going to walk away from my friend, but perhaps I needed to establish what I absolutely did not want for dinner. Well, I knew that – Italian! However when negotiating something critical, such as what to pay for a house, be sure you know what you can afford. Do not make an emotional decision because you love the house and then find yourself lumbered with a huge mortgage. Always be prepared to walk away from the deal. Know your limits.
Five, don’t be in a hurry. The other night my friendand I were hungry and we just became annoyed when we couldn’t agree on a restaurant. In retrospect it might have been wiser to have begun negotiations on the phone. I could have asked him what he felt like eating when we talked about catching up, before we were starving hungry and in a hurry to eat. It takes time to negotiate an outcome that makes everyone happy. Never rush into making a difficult decision.
Six, aim high. If you are negotiating a salary for a new job, you should open with more than you are worth. You might get lucky and actually get the salary, but at the same time you don’t want to insult your new boss. However they say optimism is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Maybe I should have told my friend I wanted lobster for dinner. Who knows, he might have responded, “I love lobster, let’s forget about the expense and splurge.” We might have had a dinner to remember!
Seven, focus on the other side’s pressure not yours. In business, you sometimes agree to conditions you are unhappy with because you are desperate to solve the problem. Your focus is on your needs, for example you own a sports store and you need to find a supplier of tennis balls. You agree to pay too much because you are out of stock. But remember your supplier might be cash-strapped. Focus on the pressure he might be under and you’ll be less likely to rush into an unsatisfactory deal. The other night, both my friend and I were very hungry! We were both under pressure.
Eight, show the other person how their needs will be met. Perhaps when I was putting forward my proposals I should have spelled out what was good for him – generous portion sizes and cheap drinks. That should have met my friend’s needs.
Nine, don’t give anything away without getting something in return. Maybe I should have let my friend choose where we ate dinner, but I then should have reserved the right to choose where we went for a drink or dessert or coffee afterwards. If I’d done that we would have spent less time roaming the streets and more time enjoying ourselves.
Ten, don’t take the issues or other person’s behaviour personally. Negotiation specialist Ed Brodow says that too often when brokering a deal people get emotional and upset, when we should be remaining rational and focusing on the problem. I will be honest, it’s difficult not to get emotional when you are hungry!
An American psychologist, who specialises in helping families negotiate, said when dealing with someone you care for it is essential to first listen, second, look for hidden agendas and, three, think of the long-term relationship.
Listening is undervalued in our society. If your friend or family member has their heart set on visiting a place or doing an activity you don’t fancy, the first thing you need to do is ask them why it is so important. There might be more to the situation than you realise. Second, hidden agendas come up all the time in family life. You think you might be negotiating a time for your teenager to be at home and suddenly it becomes a fight about you not trusting your teen, not accepting that they are growing up. That is a hidden agenda or a sub-issue. There are many in family life and other long relationships and it makes sense to be aware of them when negotiating.
Finally, always think about the health of the relationship. I was so happy to see my old friend and should have just enjoyed being with him, not wasted time bickering over restaurants.
You do not want to be in a relationship in which your needs are never met. At the same time, you don’t want to waste precious time haggling over petty issues. Think seriously about what is important to you. Let the small stuff slide.
Negotiating is essential if you want to maintain any relationship long-term. Your needs should be met and the other person’s needs must also be fulfilled. Do not avoid negotiating – don’t look at it as a form of fighting. It is a form of problem solving. Avoid getting emotional. Walk away. It is better to say that you’re getting worked-up and you’d like to return to solving the problem when you’ve calmed down.
Finally always look for a win-win solution for both parties.
ABOUT PAT MESITI
Pat Mesiti is a best-selling author, coach and educator in the area of personal development. Having built some of Australia’s largest people-driven organisations, Pat understands the power of harnessing human potential. He has shared the stage with some of the world’s great business minds and has sold over millions of copies of his books and materials.