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4 Negotiation Skills All Professionals Should Have

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No two negotiators are the same, but the world’s best negotiators share many similarities. They not only bring the right mindset to the table each time, but also rely on the same tools and tactics to achieve their desired business outcomes. 

Wherever you are on your negotiation journey, you can always improve. Keep reading to learn about four must-have negotiation skills professionals need to reach their full potential at the table.

a man discuss contract terms with another businessman in a conference room

1. Empathy

To succeed as a negotiator, understanding empathy and how it works is critical. Being empathetic to the person sitting on the other side of the table is where your success begins. Empathy is about understanding. You understand your counterparts thoughts and feelings so well that you can summarize those thoughts and feelings. 

There are times when empathy is mistaken for sympathy. Sympathy is not the understanding of another’s feelings, it is walking in that person’s shoes and feeling what they are feeling. This is not the same as empathy.  With empathy you are seeing things from their perspective. 

2. Tactical Empathy™ 

If empathy is powerful, Tactical Empathy™ is a superpower. So, what is it? Tactical Empathy™ is about applying emotional intelligence in a calibrated manner. It’s strategic. When you use Tactical Empathy™ you are making a deliberate attempt on your part to not only recognize things from your counterpart’s perspective, you are also able to verbalize that recognition. 

Effectively used, Tactical Empathy™ lets your counterpart know that you understand them, that you understand what they may be up against and that you understand why their decisions make sense to them. For example, your colleague tells you, “I’m really worried about the development of the client’s new product line. I just don't know if the client liked or hated what was presented.”  What are they really saying to you?  Tactical Empathy™, is you understanding and identifying what's behind the words, then verbalizing that understanding. For example; fear of messing up this account, feeling a personal loss if things don't go right, and feeling anxiety over a lack of response by the client. Identifying these emotions, dynamics and motivations helps you to understand how to respond with empathy. Ultimately we all just want to be understood. Tactical Empathy™ is that tool for understanding, it's your new superpower.  Once you start using it you will see how effective it is at building trust-based influence. When developing Tactical Empathy™ be aware of what it is not; It’s not about being nice or agreeing with someone, it's about understanding your counterparts feelings and mindset.

One of the quickest ways to demonstrate and develop Tactical Empathy™ is using the Quick 2+1: Labels, Mirrors, and Dynamic Silence. Label the hidden emotion, dynamic or motivation behind the words of your counterpart. Mirror a key phrase or word that builds on the conversation. Your counterpart will understand that you are attentive to them and that you're listening. And, make sure that you incorporate Dynamic Silence after each skill. This will give your counterpart the time and space to absorb your wonderful labels and mirrors. It will also inform them that you understand what they are delivering to you. You will be surprised how quickly you build trust and reciprocity with your counterpart. By successfully demonstrating Tactical Empathy™,  your counterpart will want to work and share information with you.

3. Ability to Recognize Negotiator Types

Whenever you enter a negotiation, you will face one of three types of negotiators, each of which brings a different approach to the table. Identifying whether the person sitting across the table from you is an Assertive, Accommodator, or Analyst is one of the most important negotiation skills.

Knowing the type of person you’re negotiating with dictates how you interact with that person moving forward. Each personality type is unique and interesting in how they manage interactions. 

Your counterpart tells you, “don’t waste my time, just tell me exactly what needs to get done.” You have probably just encountered an Assertive. You will know pretty quickly when you have an Assertive on the other side of the table. Assertives are notably direct and since they see time as money, it’s important to them that you just get to the point. The Assertive see themselves as very logical and they like to win. For the Assertive, winning can become more important than the deal. Assertives just want to get things done on their timeline. The Assertive values respect. They want respect and nothing less. When it comes to negotiations, an Analyst who negotiates with the Assertive, should not overwhelm the Assertive with data. This is because the Assertive, while appreciative of the importance of the data, they really just want to know what the bottom line is. That is what they care about.  

You’re across the table from someone who appears to be observing everyone. They don't say much, and when they do, it’s well thought out and filled with facts and or numbers, You are probably talking to an Analyst. This is because the Analyst, who is always in a constant analysis and preparation mode may come off as being distant or disinterested. They are not, it’s quite the opposite. They are very much interested, they are just processing what you are sending to them. The Analyst is interested in data and facts and they are always prepared, if not overprepared. If you’re in conversation, and the Analyst goes silent on you, it’s not that they are ignoring you, the Analyst uses silence as an opportunity to think. You will find that the Analyst is very autonomous, and likes to work on their own. The Analyst appreciates data and info. When it comes to negotiation, the Assertive who negotiates with the Analyst should know that the Analyst will have all their ducks lined up. They will not come to the table without being over-prepared. 

If you find yourself being regaled with talks of summer plans, kids, pets, and compliments on your appearance, you are probably talking to an Accommodator. The Accommodator is the conversationalist. The Accommodator appears friendly because they actually are. This is demonstrated by the differences between the personality types. If you are in a conversation with the Assertive and the Analyst and they ask you if you are ok, it is to be polite. With the Accommodator, when they ask you if you are ok, it’s because they really want to know. The Accommodator wants to maintain the relationship and will go out of their way to preserve it. Don't let that fool you. The Accommodator is not a push-over. If you disrespect the Accommodator by damaging the relationship, they can be your worst nightmare. The key to the Accommodator is the relationship in the moment.  When it comes to negotiation, the Accommodator who negotiates with another Accommodator may be in jeopardy of not getting to their negotiation goals. This is because the Accommodators will discuss everything under the sun before getting down to business. .  

Whether in negotiations or general conversation the negotiation skill that is preferred by all three personality types is the Quick 2+1: Labels, Mirrors, and Dynamic Silence. 

Knowing what your personality type and your counterpart’s personality type assists in understanding what works or doesn’t work with each type. This makes it that much easier to form an effective strategy to achieve your ideal outcome when you understand the negotiator type that you are negotiating with.

4. Ability to Control Tone of Voice

Your tone of voice is important in any negotiation. Whether you are beginning or ending the negotiation, making an ask or delivering bad news, your tone can make or break the negotiations. 

The world’s best negotiators understand that they can ramp up emotions or calm emotions just by modulating their tone. Tone is not a personality type. Tone is separate but related to the negotiator personality types. Tone is the manner in which you speak, Personality is who you are. For positive results with your negotiation, you will want to use  the Accommodator’s tone 80% of the time. It is a light and friendly tone and engages every personality type. The Analyst tone is used 20% of the time. This is the “Late-NIght-DJ Voice.” It is calm, soothing, and serious. If you find yourself in a position of having to deliver bad news, this is the tone you want to use. The Assertive tone which is blunt and direct should not be used during negotiations. It is always counterproductive. The Assertive tone can put the other side on the offensive. 

Don’t discount what tone can do for you. Use the right tone with the corresponding inflection. An Inquisitive Tone; this uses upward inflection, emphasis on the last word, it is inviting and curious. A Declarative Tone; this uses a downward inflection, it is calm, low and serious and is used for stating or declaring facts. Be aware that tone is so effective, that using the right tone for your negotiation is 5x more important than the words you use. 

Now you have a better idea of the must-have negotiation skills professionals need. Continue your learning by checking out our free e-book, 5 Negotiation Tactics for Dealing with Difficult People.

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