Monday, July 29, 2013

Negotiating Life

If you want life to go as smooth as possible the first skill you should master is the skill of negotiation. If you stop and think about it every thing you do, every interaction is a negotiation. You can set the tone and direction of each interaction as long as you keep in mind that you are always in negotiation. When you talk with your spouse about what color to paint the house, he may say “Whatever color you want dear.” And that may not seem like a negotiation but it is. Next month he may approach you and say “I picked out a new front door that I am going to install.” You may not like the door and ask him why he did not consult you first and he will say well I let you pick out the color so I picked out the door. Never assume that because it was simple and you got what you wanted that you are not in a negotiation.
Parents negotiate with their kids over chores, homework, friends and activities. Teachers negotiate with students. Employees negotiate with employers, husbands and wives negotiate, as do doctors and patients, buyers and sellers, friends and every other relationship you can think of. Have you noticed that some people seem to have an easier path in life? Most of the time, whether they know it or not they have learned the skill of negotiation.
Rule one, everybody wants to win. Never make an ultimatums, always leave some wiggle room. Rule two, even if it is personal issue, don’t make the negotiation personal. People close you off and stop listening to you when you make it personal. Rule three, be a good listener. Even acknowledge what the other person said to you by repeating part of it in your reply. Rule four, the most important part of negotiation is to get as much as you want without giving up your objective.  Find a way to pin point what is crucial to the person you are negotiating with and give them as much of it as you can in exchange for receiving  what you need. Rule five, control the tone on the negotiation. Do not let it get off topic, loud or emotional. If it does, take a step back and take a different approach.

Remember you have to be willing to discuss things; explain what you want and the reason why you want it. Be logical in your approach that includes your timing. Know your purpose, you mind and heart. Know your limits. Just as important you have to also know the boundaries of the person you are negotiating with. If you are asking your boss for time off, don’t ask on a day when you know they are swamped with work. If the answer is, I will think about it, don’t push because they can shut the door on your attempt.  Always understand who you are dealing with and have a clear attainable goal. Don’t go to your best friend and ask them to help you move the weekend of their wedding. Be thoughtful and considerate, it goes a long way. Instead tell your friend how excited you are that they are getting married that weekend. Clearly, no matter how good of a friend they are, they are not going to miss their wedding to help you move. Ask someone else to help you and avoid losing a friend over an unattainable goal.

When I was in Law School I took a class on negotiating. One of the books we had to read was “Win-Win, the art of Negotiating”.  The main points were to always know your bottom line, always find out what the other party wants, pick your timing and never make it personal. Those key points will help you no matter who you are dealing with. But it is imperative that you don’t take advantage of relationships. Don’t twist someone’s arm just because you can. That is not negotiating that is strong arming. Don’t use guilt to get you what you want. It may work in the short term but in the long run it will end up harming the relationship. 

If you use these tactics you will find that you avoid disagreements and get more of what you are after.  Try and negotiate with your credit card company. Point out to them that you always make your payments on time and have never missed a payment. Ask them to take that in consideration and to reduce your interest rate. In retune you can offer to continue to use their card. Go to your best friend that is planning a baby shower the same day and time as your anniversary party. Explain that instead of having your mutual friends pick which event to attend, that while neither of you want to change the date, maybe you can stager the times. That would be a win-win for both of you as each of you would also be able to attend the other’s party as well.

Ask your husband if he would be willing to help you paint the house and in return you will be willing to help him with one of his pet projects, like organizing the garage. Ask your boss for a raise and in exchange list some additional responsibilities you are willing to take on. Ask your kids to help you clean the house and let them know if everything gets done then you will take them on that picnic at the park they have been asking for.  Figure out what the person you are negotiation with really wants and if possible, offer it to them. Both of you will walk away happy.                      

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