Negotiation Skills: Are You Sure You’re Sharing?

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Adapted from “Are You Sure You’re Sharing?,” first published in the April 2010 issue of Negotiation.

If you’ve ever been annoyed by a negotiation counterpart who can’t seem to remember your interests and priorities, it could be that your communication skills, not his poor memory, are to blame.

Negotiators typically aren’t as transparent as they think they are. In some cases, we think we’re revealing more information to the other side than we actually are. At other times, we fail to present information as clearly as possible.

Such communication failures can pose significant problems. In one study, professors George Loewenstein and Don Moore of Carnegie Mellon University found that when information can be interpreted in different ways, differing expectations and settlement delays may result.

On the other hand, when information can be interpreted in only one way, information sharing promotes a meeting of the minds and ushers parties toward a speedy agreement.

How can you make sure you’re understood?

– Before negotiating, list the information you want to share and rehearse your presentation.

– At the negotiating table, find out how clear you’ve been by asking your counterpart questions about the information you conveyed.

– Finally, when brainstorming options, refer back to your list to make sure the information doesn’t get lost in the shuffle.

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  • Clear communication skills are essential in any form of negotiation. When a negotiator has a negotiation partner it is essential that both are well informed of the issues at hand and that both are as you would say “singing of the same hymn sheet”.

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