Improve Your Negotiation Skills: Negotiation Training from the Pros

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Discover How to Develop the Negotiation Skills of a Diplomat

Dear Colleague,

Imagine—you’re onstage without a script, relying on your mind and wits to come up with lines and actions that advance the game. Should you trust your fellow players? It seems you have no choice. You have to say something and hope you achieve the desired reaction from your audience.

Such is the task of a negotiator—and a comedy improvisation performer. Like improv performers, great negotiators have a knack for being quick on their feet.

They seize unexpected opportunities and respond swiftly to sudden threats.

They sense instantly when they’ve stepped on someone’s toes, and they have the grace to make just the right apology.

For many of us, our negotiation skills surface too late; only after we’ve left the meeting do we think of the perfect response.

In this special report, How to Improve Negotiation Skills: Win-Win Negotiation Strategies from the Pros, we offer advice from the Negotiation newsletter to help you learn important negotiation lessons from experts in selected fields.

Throughout these 12 pages of win-win negotiation strategies, you will discover proven negotiation skills utilized by well-respected diplomats, famous actors, and major league athletes.

Negotiate with the skill of a diplomat.

The more important and complex your talks are, the greater the need to seek negotiation strategies from the outer edges of your awareness. In addition, for the success of any win-win negotiation, the more unusual the negotiation is and the less you understand about the other party, the more you should strive to broaden your focus.

Think on your feet like an improv performer.

Improv actors seize unexpected opportunities to respond swiftly to sudden threats. Discovering how to engage and persuade the other side is a process of trial, error, and adjustment. By following three rules from improv comedy, you can improve your negotiation skills and bargain more effectively with your counterparts.

Thrive in competitive situations like a sports professional.

Anyone who has negotiated through agents, faced a competitive atmosphere, or lacked any strong deal alternatives can learn a lot from team athletics. This report analyzes the key features that can make sports negotiations so contentious and offers negotiation strategies for fostering greater collaboration and trust.

The articles in How to Improve Negotiation Skills: Win-Win Negotiation Strategies from the Pros were previously published in Negotiation, a monthly newsletter for leaders and business professionals in every field. Negotiation is published by the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School, an interdisciplinary consortium that works to connect rigorous research and scholarship on negotiation and dispute resolution with a deep understanding of practice.

11 win-win negotiation strategies you’ll learn in this special report:

Win-win negotiation strategy #1: An overly narrow focus can limit negotiators. Too often, negotiators consider only the information that is most obvious about the negotiation—specific information relevant to the bargaining task at hand. Meanwhile, critical information lies outside their awareness.

Win-win negotiation strategy #2: Refer to past negotiations for enlightenment.

What type of information might you be most likely to miss? To answer this question, reconsider your most important past negotiation. Your answer may provide hints on where to find the most important information in the broader concentric circles of your negotiations.

Win-win negotiation strategy #3: Ignore stereotypes for a more accurate perspective.

When we negotiate with people we don’t know well, we’re likely to fall back on stereotypes. As a result, we miss the unique views represented by the unique individuals on the other side—and miss key insights as well.

Win-win negotiation strategy #4: Look beyond the negotiating table.

Given the complexity of deal-making in developing and rapidly changing economies, the tendency to ignore the role and power of your competitors grows exponentially. Wise executives broaden their focus beyond the negotiating table.

Win-win negotiation strategy #5: Use the rules of improv instead of yielding to negative impulses.

When you’re on the receiving end of an unworkable demand, you may feel your only negotiation strategy is to cave in or fight back. If you’re quick on your feet, however, you may identify an alternative: accepting a glass that’s half full and then coaxing your counterpart to top it off.

Win-win negotiation strategy #6: Don’t ask questions.

In win-win negotiation , asking “What do you propose?” cedes control to the other party, at least temporarily. If he makes an aggressive proposal, you’ve let him anchor the process on his desired outcome and launched a game of haggling.

Win-win negotiation strategy #7: Remove layers between negotiations.

Sports agents face significant conflicts of interest in negotiations because they are paid a percentage of the player’s salary and tend to be less considerate of other deal features that might please the client (like location). For reasons like this, a small number of athletes choose to use their own negotiation strategies to deal on their own behalf—thus removing that layer between them and what’s important to them at the negotiation table.

Win-win negotiation strategy #8: Consider your alternatives. In most negotiations, if talks with one counterpart don’t go well, we can walk away and deal with someone else. At other times we cannot and it’s one of many fundamental negotiation skills to recognize the difference.

Win-win negotiation strategy #9: Know your ZOPA ahead of time. In most negotiation strategies, parties typically see value in negotiating with each other only if a zone of possible agreement, or ZOPA, exists. Otherwise, negotiation becomes nothing more than a matter of hoping the other guy blinks first.

Win-win negotiation strategy #10: Reduce external pressures on your negotiation. If you’re facing a tight deadline, try to extend it. If you’re being closely monitored by an audience, such as members of your organization or the media, work on making your negotiations more private. At the table, discuss the benefits of viewing each other as collaborators rather than as rivals.

Win-win negotiation strategy #11: Consider outside factors. Business negotiators need to consider the larger economic forces in which they are working. In the midst of a recession, it might be unrealistic for you to expect customers to accept a significant price increase as part of your contract renegotiations, even if they did last year.

When sharpening your negotiation skills, it may occasionally seem as if everything is riding on the outcome of a particular deal. But that kind of pressure can sabotage even the best negotiation strategies and negotiators.

When preparing for a win-win negotiation that seems like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, make a list of all the other options you might explore if you don’t succeed. By improving your sense of psychological power, you set yourself up to perform at your best.

If you’re ready to become a better negotiator, download How to Improve Negotiation Skills: Win-Win Negotiation Strategies from the Pros right now – it doesn’t cost a dime but the negotiation strategies inside will help you win the types of negotiations that could make you happier, smarter and wealthier.

Robert H. Mnookin

Robert H. Mnookin

Samuel Williston Professor of Law
Faculty Chair, Program on Negotiation
Harvard Law School

P.S. You can improve your negotiation skills and gain access to more reports like this by subscribing to Negotiation. Every month, Negotiation provides a range of real-world scenarios, groundbreaking theories, and practical negotiation strategies to get deals done, solve problems, preserve relationships, and obtain better results at the bargaining table.

One Response to “Improve Your Negotiation Skills: Negotiation Training from the Pros”

  1. Michael Phillips /

    Thanks! Great information. Reply

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