Five Key Components of Effective Negotiation

No matter the context or the stakes, every effective negotiation strategy relies on these five factors. Are you effectively using all five?

1. Proven Communication Techniques

The key to becoming a more effective negotiator lies in becoming a more skilled communicator. In any negotiation, your communication style and choices directly impact your ability to build trust-based influence and dictate the tone and direction of the conversation. By practicing communication techniques like mirroring and labeling in your daily life, you’ll learn how and when to use them to strengthen your trust-based influence. Knowing why different techniques work and what they accomplish will also improve your agility under pressure.

For example, you can use mirroring to:

  • Establish trust and respect by demonstrating that you’ve heard what the other person has said.
  • Create room for your counterpart to pause and connect different thoughts.
  • Encourage the speaker to continue talking without offering an agreement or rejection.
  • Gain confirmation and earn buy-in 

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2. Emotional Intelligence

Behavioral scientists Norbert Schwarz and Gerald Clore made waves in the early ‘80s with their study, Mood as Information, which proved that emotions have a significant impact on human judgments, decision-making, and thought processes. Although their conclusions may not come as any surprise today, their work paved the way for other researchers to explore the concept of emotional intelligence in a field where logic reigns supreme. In the study, Schwarz and Clore not only discovered that mood directly impacts unrelated judgments, but also that mood can be manipulated simply by drawing someone’s attention to specific experiences or observations.

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In a negotiation, operating with emotional intelligence—i.e., recognizing and controlling your own emotions and recongizing and articulating those of others—is a powerful skill. On one hand, controlling your own emotional register will improve your situational awareness and allow you to communicate in the most constructive way. For instance, if you enter into a negotiation in an agitated and aggressive mood, it will negatively impact your communication style and cause a similar emotional response in your counterpart, thus reducing the likelihood that they’ll be influenced.

The other side of emotional intelligence involves recognizing and vocalizing your counterpart’s emotional drives and communicating in a way that responds to and addresses those subconscious factors. Doing this will help you frame the discussion in a way that your counterpart can feel satisfied with.

3. Situational Awareness

Situational awareness goes hand in hand with emotional intelligence. In order to operate with agility and grace under pressure, you need to be able to identify and process a large volume of information at once. That includes processing what your counterpart is saying, reading their tone, interpreting their emotions, and determining what emotional factors are driving their judgments and behavior mood. It also includes picking up on other group dynamics and environmental factors that may affect your ability to reach an agreement.

Understanding all of this information requires you to be clear headed (hence why emotional regulation is important). Responding in a tactical way requires both emotional intelligence and practice. If this sounds like a lot to manage, consider the example of a professional athlete. When a baseball player steps up to the plate, they must process where a ball is headed and how fast it’s coming in order to adjust and respond in a split second. Although most players start out thinking about every movement of their body, the pros practice so often that they achieve a kind of unconscious competence, or muscle memory, that allows them to cream a 103 mph pitch hurtling over the plate.

In the same way that athletes train their bodies through repetition and practice to hit a ball, we can train our brains to interpret situational input and adjust our communication styles and strategies accordingly.

4. Tactical Empathy

Remember when we said that you can intentionally influence someone’s behavior and judgments simply by recognizing and directing their mood? Tactical empathy is a powerful technique that allows you to do just that.

Empathy describes the ability to understand someone else’s point of view, even when you don’t agree with that view. Tactical empathy means demonstrating that understanding in an accurate and non-judgemental way and using it to guide your strategic response.

Listening with the intent of comprehension (rather than simply waiting for your opening to speak) is an integral part of mastering tactical empathy. In order to learn the information you need to apply tactical empathy, you also need to give your counterpart the chance to speak their mind. That’s where effective silence comes in.

5. Effective Silence

Silence is a powerful communication tool. People feel most comfortable and in control when they are speaking about themselves, so resisting the urge to speak can both put your counterpart in a positive mindset and help you hone your strategy. Effective silence is silence with strategic intent.

It can be used to:

  • Help you learn what you need to know about your counterpart in order to employ tactical empathy and communicate in an emotionally intelligent way.
  • Give your counterpart the opportunity to expand or clarify a point.
  • Demonstrate respect and establish trust.
  • Help disarm an attack by slowing the pace of the conversation and providing space for your counterpart to reset their emotional register.

All of the factors on this list can be practiced and honed in your everyday life to help you get what you want. In order for these skills to become second nature, it’s important to maintain your competency. Doing so will help you operate with confidence and be more effective in high-stakes negotiations.

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