We negotiate all the time, whether we realize it or not -- and we negotiate at work more often than we think. Every day, we have to persuade other people to accept our point of view -- whether it is to agree on roles for a project, change the way something is done, or simply come up with the agenda for a team meeting.
Strong communication and negotiations skills are important career builders that will enable you to speak your mind and get your point across.
"The ability to increase your clout and credibility over time will be the best tool you have to improve your persuasive skills and gain advantages in negotiations," said Matti Neustadt Storie, a Seattle-based attorney with Stoel Rives.
So how can people be more successful at getting what they want? Good communication skills go a long way, but we've laid out six effective tactics to help you negotiate or persuade someone to accept your point of view -- whether it's getting your project approved or finagling a pay raise.
>> Do your homework. As the scout motto goes: Be prepared. People often don't spend much effort preparing for a negotiation or discussion because it takes a lot of time and energy. But, if you've done your homework, success will be easier to come by.
Before heading into a negotiation, it's important to have the facts. Know what you want and understand why you want it. Figure out what you'll fight for or compromise on. Determine your ideal solution, but also have a Plan B alternative. And if need be, know when you'll walk away.
A solid understanding of your own position will enable you to present yourself with complete confidence.
>> Who's your opposition? Know your audience. Do you know their position? Do you know what makes them tick? If you don't know, take some time to find out -- ask around, look for insight that will help.
It's important to consider the viewpoints of the people you want to persuade. It will be easier to convince them to take your point of view if your communications are focused on their perspective rather than just your own. Consider how the solution meets their needs and use that knowledge to make your case.
To increase the receptiveness of your audience, avoid "you vs. them" arguments and focus on "us" solutions.
>> Who's in charge? Another point to consider is who has the authority to negotiate. Do you have the authority to open up discussions? Are you talking to the person? Don't waste your time talking if you don't have someone -- on both sides -- with the authority to make changes to the agreement or close the deal.
If you don't have the authority, you will need to convince the people who do that your position is the right approach. If you have done a good job of preparing, you should have all the information they need to take your plan forward.
>> Get ready. Frame your thoughts. Be clear and confident about what you want. When presenting your side, avoid "I think" or "I feel" -- they are too subjective and personal. Just provide the facts and stand behind them.
Also, don't forget to consider the timing. Even if it's the right time for you to discuss the topic, is it the right time for the other person? Think about what else is going on -- both internally and externally.
While this may not be the best time to request a salary raise, it doesn't mean you shouldn't try. Appeal to the needs of your boss -- show what you are doing to help him be successful in his job and how that helps the company achieve its goals. Be creative with the rewards you ask for -- consider what alternative to a raise would satisfy you.
>> Ask questions. Negotiations start moving once you actually meet with the other party. But don't start by making a proposal. Instead, ask questions and listen -- it is an opportunity to figure out what they really want. A study by Huthwaite Research Group found that "skilled negotiators ask more than twice as many questions than average negotiators."
As you move forward in your discussions, ask the hypothetical. Determine how much leverage you have before you put a proposal down on the table.
>> Close the deal. Negotiations are the process -- not the end -- so make sure you come to an agreement or decision; don't let discussions drag on too long.
Jennifer Curleigh runs soft skill management training and development programs for managers and employees, including courses on conflict resolution and negotiations. She offers the following suggestions to encourage a close:
- Remind them of where you are at, such as: "Let's recap. We've talked about …"; it will clarify positions and what you've already agreed to.
- Simply ask, "Are you ready to bring this discussion to a conclusion?"
- Throw in a concession to sweeten the pot as a goodwill gesture. It should be something that has a high perceived value by the other party, but does not cost you much.
One important thing to remember is not to burn any bridges -- most industries are too small for bad behavior to go without notice for very long.
Most of the time, the goal of a negotiation is to find a win-win solution -- with both parties satisfied with the result. The key is usually a collaborative approach, combined with persuasive communications to get your point across. Remember too that the other person you are negotiating with likely has the same goals as you -- to persuade you to their point of view. A good negotiation will make both sides feel that they are getting good value, even if they didn't get exactly what they wanted.
This monthly column, a partnership between OIWC and SNEWS®, aims to address the issues that concern women in the industry most -- anything that is controversial, topical or newsworthy relating to women and the outdoors. The goal is to help, educate, inspire and grow. We welcome your ideas, gripes, thoughts and comments. Bring it on. E-mail us at email@example.com.
Lisa Morrison is a strategic marketing consultant focused on creating targeted and meaningful marketing programs that reach the right audience and convince them to act. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 802-393-0330.
Outdoor Industries Women's Coalition is a membership community of professionals in the outdoor industries united to provide power, influence and opportunity for women in outdoor-related businesses and to generate champions to inspire other women. For more information, visit www.oiwc.org.