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Use It Or Lose It: 4 Ways to Practice Your Negotiation Skills

By |August 20, 2018

If you’ve ever taken a negotiation course or read a book on negotiation, you’ve likely learned some techniques for effective communication. But unfortunately, negotiation is not like riding a bike. Much like a foreign language, unless you regularly practice the techniques, those valuable skills you learned will begin to decline over time.

Fortunately, there are plenty of opportunities to practice the art of negotiation. From discussing options for your next vacation spot with a spouse to executing a business deal at work, most of us are involved in some type of negotiation every day. Here are a few ways to practice your negotiation skills and keep them sharp:

Treat Simple, Everyday Interactions Like a Negotiation

Why should you treat everyday interactions like negotiations? Because they are! Why not put your skills to work? Deciding with a friend where to go for dinner or discussing with coworkers the priorities for a project can offer simple opportunities to practice negotiation strategies such as active listening, empathy, and taking cues from body language. Without practice, a negotiation can feel more like an argument or a selfish demand. However, when you practice your skills in everyday interactions, you begin to see negotiation as a process toward an agreement, rather than an argument, making you feel more comfortable during high stakes negotiations.

Read more about how to negotiate contracts »

Talk to Solicitors

You may often be confronted by someone who wants to sell you something. A salesperson knocks on your front door and offers you a chance to buy discounted kitchen knives. A credit card company calls to offer you a limited-time introductory rate. Taking the time to speak with (often unwelcome) solicitors when you have nothing to lose can provide the perfect opportunity to practice your skills.

Role-Play with Family or Friends

Practicing negotiation doesn’t always have to happen in real-life scenarios. Sometimes a healthy role-play with friends or family members can provide a low-stress opportunity to practice what you’ve learned on someone you trust.

Role-play exercises can be useful for practicing:

  • How to prepare for a negotiation
  • Asking different kinds of questions to better understand the other person’s point of view
  • How to make a counter-proposal so that you can more effectively encourage your counterpart to share information

A role-play exercise as simple as negotiating who will get the last cookie in the cookie jar will help you become more comfortable in these areas. After all, repetition is the mother of skill.

Practice in a Training Session

Negotiation skills training and coaching can be great ways to learn and practice new techniques. Whether delivered in a group session with coworkers or in an online environment that leverages rich case studies and group discussion, trainings provide eye-opening insights for what to do and what not to do when negotiating a contract, sale, or complex business deal such as a merger. On top of getting some practice, there’s always something new to be learned—even if you’ve had training in the past.

Like other worthwhile skills, negotiation is one that requires regular practice. When you keep your skills sharp using some of the techniques mentioned above, you’ll be prepared to negotiate and win people over when the stakes are high.

What are some everyday situations you find yourself in where you can practice negotiation? Share them in the comments below to help others practice their skills.

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