Everything can be negotiated—from family dinner and vacation plans to our starting salary and the buy-out structure of a multi-billion-dollar company. American author, Dr. Chester Karras, wrote, “In business as in life, you don’t get what you deserve, you get what you negotiate.”
Strengthening our (and our children’s) negotiation capabilities will pay dividends for the rest of our (and their) lives, profoundly influencing 1) quality of life and 2) earnings potential. Depending on age and maturity, here are some negotiation fundamentals we can teach our children…
Ask Good Questions & Engage Active Listening
When we can learn more about our negotiating counterpart, this knowledge often helps both sides; openness typically provides more value than closedness. Even if it’s uncomfortable, our willingness to share may encourage others to do the same.
Before entering a negotiation, strive to see things from the other person’s perspective. Conceptualize excellent, intentional, open-ended questions that encourage them to share their true motivations and insights into what they truly want. When they speak, we shouldn’t just listen with our ears and minds but with our heart. As they express their position, be curious, empathic, and don’t interrupt.
When the other person is speaking, resist the urge to think about what we are going to say next. Listen carefully, then paraphrase what we heard to 1) verify that we understand and 2) ensure they know that we are paying attention. Not only does this help us learn potentially valuable information, but our negotiating counterpart may follow our lead in actively listening to us, enhancing the likelihood of reaching a mutually beneficial negotiated agreement.
Understand & Continuously Strengthen Our BATNA
Greek philosopher, Aristotle, famously declared, “Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.” BATNA stands for Best Alternative to Negotiated Agreement: the best alternative that a negotiating party can pursue if an agreement cannot be made. Wise negotiators invest time and effort to identify and improve their BATNA—before showing up to negotiate. By cultivating strong alternatives, we are in a better position to “walk-away” from unappealing deals. The ability and willingness to forego continued involvement automatically strengthens a negotiating position.
Our mindset is one of our greatest assets; think from a place of abundance. The easiest and most ill-fated way to lose power is to believe that we don’t have any. Set “walk-away” goals, but also set “aspirational” goals, starting the conversation from where we aspire to be. The confidence we have in reaching our aspirations can be much more important than what outside forces would lead us to believe. Envision more. Ask for more. Get more.
Beware the Anchoring Bias
Research shows that the first number (the anchor) discussed during a negotiation, can powerfully influence the conversation. This “anchoring bias” can be achieved by making the first offer (or offers), trying to “anchor” the conversation in our favor. If our negotiating counterpart “anchors” first, it is important to remain focused on our BATNA, refusing to be victimized by any compromise that falls beneath our “walk-away.”
Small talk isn’t always feasible, but if there are ways to strengthen the relationship before getting into the nitty gritty, doing so can bring real benefits to both sides. Healthy relationships between negotiating counterparts often make for more collaborative approaches. If negotiating via email, sometimes making a phone call can introduce the personal dimension and make the relationship just as important as the actual terms of the deal.
The future can be difficult to predict. Some deals get held up when folks disagree about how things will play out over time. Contingency deals “bet” on how the future will unfold. If an uncertain future is holding up a potentially desirable deal, skilled negotiators can come up with creative contingencies to protect both sides with performance-based caveats to hedge risk.
Explore for Smart Tradeoffs
Singular focus on the bottom line of one issue can inhibit us from successfully defending our position. In distributive (or zero-sum) negotiations, demands and concessions are often limited to a single issue, such as price. If we make this a more integrative process, we might be able to explore several issues simultaneously to help both sides get more of what they want. Oftentimes, certain issues matter more to us than they do to them and vice versa. With multiple criteria in play, skilled negotiators can concede on certain things in exchange for gains elsewhere.
7-Elements of Effective Negotiations
Before engaging an important negotiation, consider exploring “The 7-Elements of Effective Negotiations” expanded upon in this 7-Element Prep Sheet.pdf.
- Alternatives: ways to meet our interests outside of coming to agreement; does not require cooperation of current negotiating counterpart (BATNA).
- Interests: needs, desires, and concerns we are trying to satisfy.
- Options: possible elements of agreement.
- Objective Criteria: factual, publicly accepted information, independent of the negotiating parties; relevant for setting standards for the negotiation.
- Relationships: the interpersonal connections at stake.
- Communication: exchange of information between the parties.
- Commitment: a promise or agreement.
We negotiate with ourselves when deciding between grilled or fried chicken, with our family when divvying out household chores, and with our co-workers as we consider certain responsibilities at work. In learning more about the motives and interests of the players involved, we (and our children) can turn from conflict and towards collaboration to design outcomes that are satisfying to all parties.
“When you are on the way to court with your adversary, settle your differences quickly. Otherwise, your accuser may hand you over to the judge, who will hand you over to an officer, and you will be thrown into prison.” —Matthew 5:25 NLT
It would be a better world if every child, early in life, learned about ways to resolve conflict through cooperation. In this wonderfully simple and instructive tale for children make this dream possible.
Revised edition of the quintessential guide for negotiating effectively in every part of your life. A must read for everyone seeking to master negotiation.
Roger Fisher teams with Daniel Shapiro, an expert on the emotional dimension of negotiation. Beyond Reason shows how emotions can turn a disagreement—big or small—professional or personal—into opportunity for mutual gain.
A former international hostage negotiator for the FBI offers a new, field-tested approach to high-stakes negotiations― no matter where they take place.
Two leaders in executive education at Harvard Business School propose strategies and habits to achieve outstanding results in any negotiation. Whether you’ve “seen it all” or are just starting out, Negotiation Genius will dramatically improve your negotiating skills.
PLEASE NOTE: As an Amazon Associate, Mothers Truly Matter earns from qualifying purchases. The information in this post should not be construed as providing specific psychiatric, psychological, or medical advice, but rather to offer readers information to better understand the lives and health of themselves and their children. It is not intended to provide an alternative to professional treatment or to replace the services of a physician, psychiatrist, or psychotherapist.