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3 Negotiation Exercises to Sharpen Your Skills

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The skills we teach at The Black Swan Group can help you transform your approach to negotiation. But, just like anything else, the skills are perishable. If you want to unlock their full potential, you need to practice regularly.

Ultimately, the only way to become a more effective negotiator is by using the skills. In fact, everyone on the Black Swan team uses negotiation skills every day because it helps us stay sharp and continuously improve. The more you practice, the more confident you become—which is particularly helpful when the stakes are highest.

But how exactly can you get your practice reps in? Let’s take a look at three low-stakes negotiation exercises:

A close-up of two sets of hands. One person’s hand is outstretched, looking to make a deal.

1. Talk to people when you go out.

Whether you’re at a coffee shop, cafe, or restaurant, it’s a great opportunity to use negotiation skills. 

Recently, I was in Las Vegas for the weekend. We were at a restaurant, and people were complaining about the slow service. I took that as an opportunity to sharpen my skills.

When the waitperson came to my table, she told us they were short-handed that night. I used a Label™ in response: It seems like you’ve got a ton on your plate. She responded in the affirmative and let me know that “everyone’s trying to do our best job.” Using a Mirror™, I reflected those words: Your best job?

The floodgates opened. She told me everything her team was doing to serve customers, and it was a lot. I responded: No worries. Take your time. I want you to know we appreciate what you’re doing and that your hard work is not going unnoticed. 

This was a genuine conversation—not a negotiation. The waitperson could sense the genuineness too. Before I knew it, our food came out ahead of everyone else’s. For the rest of the evening, she kept coming by to refill our coffees. The caliber of service went through the roof.

Ultimately, the waitperson wanted to be around people who made her feel good. Because I took the time to acknowledge what she was going through, we connected. As a result, she gave us great service for the rest of the night, and we gave her a great tip.

2. Engage solicitors when they call.

Now and again, we all get calls from solicitors trying to sell us better insurance, clean our chimneys, or repair our roofs. Instead of ignoring these calls, view them as opportunities to practice the skills.

Whenever I get these calls, I answer them and try to continue the conversation using negotiation skills. Recently, one conversation stretched for 30 minutes as we talked and talked and talked.

These phone calls are about as low stakes as it gets. You’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain by using them as opportunities to grow your skills.

3. Practice with your coworkers.

Got some downtime in the office? Enlist a few coworkers and practice the skills on them (after, of course, letting them know that’s what you’re doing). 

Get them involved in the process by using a Calibrated Question™: How difficult of a position would I put you in if I asked you to help me? They will be curious and want to know what you’ve learned, so they’ll help.

As you practice the skills, put your finger up in the air when you recognize a counterpart has used one of them. It’s a great way of acknowledging that the tactics are working without breaking up the flow of the conversation.

It’s time to practice these negotiation exercises! 

There’s only one difference between an athlete and a professional athlete: the amount of work and effort the professional has put in over the years.

The same concept applies to the world of high-stakes negotiations.

By putting the time and effort in, you can learn more about how the skills work and be in a better position to deploy them confidently the next time you’re at the table.

Ready to continue your training? Check out our guide, Three Negotiator Types, to learn more about who’s sitting across the table from you.

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