All of the turmoil for the last couple of weeks got me thinking about what I’ve learned about negotiations over the past 25 years in business. Everyone negotiates in business and I’m not just talking about negotiating that new contract with a vendor or that next pay raise with your boss. We negotiate what and how information is to be reported with other mangers. We negotiate how to handle those thousands of gray areas in accounting standards with auditors. We negotiate work schedules, telecommuting and the training you want to take. With all of these negotiations going on there are a few things that I want to share about successful negotiations.

  1. You absolutely have to know the difference between the nice to haves, the want to haves and the absolutely must haves. The second part is determining if your absolutely must haves are even possible. This can be the tricky part because you are not always negotiating with someone that is as reasonable as you are.
  2. You have to know the same things from the person you are negotiating with – and that can be very hard, but not because they won’t tell you. It’s hard because you have to put yourself in their shoes and think like they do and that may mean thinking in ways that are absolutely opposite to your belief system.
  3. You have to actually talk. I know that seems obvious, but it’s amazing how many times people fail to get what the absolutely must have because of a simple refusal to even start talking.
  4. Negotiation is not an I win, you lose proposition. It is all about a we win proposition. Unconditional surrender may work in war (at a great cost), but it does not work in negotiations if your objective is continuing success in the future.
  5. Negotiation is not about compromise. If you know your (obtainable) must haves and the other side knows their (obtainable) must haves, there is always a way settle the negotiations so both sides win. That’s not compromise, that’s success.

Of course all of this depends on both sides having some level of reasonableness. If one side is willing to kill themselves like a suicide bomber just to make a point then there is no way to negotiate. There is only getting out of the way until they are gone and you can negotiate with someone who actually wants to live to succeed day after day, negotiation after negotiation in the future.

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