The word “negotiation” often conjures visions of high-stakes meetings and stressful conversations, but being comfortable with negotiation can have a positive impact on even the most typical day.
You may not realize it, but every time you find yourself explaining your point of view or hoping for agreement from another person, you’re negotiating. You could be asking for a discount on an uncleaned hotel room or compromising on a Saturday night dinner spot — negotiation is just two people working towards an agreement.
Whether you work at a global firm or run a small business of your own, read on for negotiation tips and tricks to stretch yourself both personally and professionally.
Know your ideal outcome, but have a Plan B
It’s easy to know what you want — the movie you want to see, the discount you want, or the ideal guest list. The more difficult part of negotiations is knowing how to structure a conversation. You’ll no doubt need to concede something (as will the other person), but it’s a lot easier to capture the outcome that you want when you’re prepared with a few concessions.
Heading into any conversation, remember these three buckets:
1. Your ideal outcome
2. A Plan B with a small concession to the other party
3. When you would walk away.
For larger negotiations, like asking for a sizable discount, it’s best to write your thoughts down. What do you want? What will you settle for? What is the lowest you’ll accept?
Pick a doorway that is of mutual interest
A “doorway” into a negotiation is the way that you’ll approach the conversation. It’s not about how you physically walk up to the other person, but how you’ll orient your ask.
Although the core of negotiation is a personal point of view, resist getting into the weeds of your reasoning. You’re more likely to reach an agreement if you focus on mutual interests.
Let’s say you arrived at a hotel, and although your room was supposed to be ready, the front desk informs you that it’ll be a few more hours before you can check in. They offer you an upgrade to a scenic view and you can check-in immediately — but it’s double the price.
Your ideal outcome is getting that available (upgraded) room at no cost. What doorways do you have? You could explain that you’ve already splurged on the trip and don’t have additional budget to upgrade, or you could stress the inconvenience and disappointment of the delay.
Fearing an unhappy customer, the latter option is of much more interest to the hotel staff and a stronger doorway to get you closer to a discounted room.
For example, a great way to begin would be “I appreciate that there’s a delay with getting rooms ready, but we did arrive at the appropriate check-in time. Waiting three hours is a significant inconvenience. What options do we have without an paying additional rate?”
Don’t be afraid to stress your disappointment or ask to speak to management — especially for negotiations that involve your time and money.
Ask questions to build trust (and your case)
You know your ideal outcome and how you’re going to frame the conversation, but now what? We often default to doing a lot of talking to make our case, but asking questions is the secret weapon to negotiation.
People love to talk about themselves — it’s human nature. By asking questions like “why do you feel that way?” or “what is the biggest hurdle we have?” you’re not only gathering data points to strengthen your argument, but you’re also positioning yourself as an understanding adversary.
Showing that you care about each point of view helps you be seen as a compromising partner — even if you aren’t conceding.
- Instead of “That’s ridiculous, my proposal is better for everyone than yours,” try “Why do you think that option is better than my idea?”
- Instead of “You don’t know what you’re talking about,” try “Maybe I’m just not understanding, can you walk me through your reasoning?”
- Instead of “We’re obviously not seeing eye to eye,” try “What is your biggest concern with my proposal?”
Know when to walk away
Although we’d all love to always get our ideal outcome, negotiations won’t always end in your favor. If you’ve exhausted your points of reason and there isn’t a compromise in sight, it’s important to exit the conversation gracefully.
You should prepare how you’ll walk away in the same way that you’ve prepared your ask. For example, a simple statement such as “I appreciate your point of view, but unfortunately it doesn’t seem like we’ll be able to come to a compromise today” is a respectful way to close the conversation without creating unnecessary tension.
If it’s a small conversation, such as asking for a discount on a blouse that has as small hole, a short exit is all you need. For larger asks, like asking for a discount on a sub-par hotel experience, be sure to recap what next step you’ll be taking. For example, “thank you for your time, I’ll follow up with management to move forward”.
Lastly, remember why it’s important
Negotiations can be intimidating. You may be afraid to rock the boat, cause friction or seem selfish.
“You don’t get what you don’t ask for.” There are countless iterations of those same words but each rings true — you must to ask for what you want. The best way to get better about advocating for yourself is to practice on a small scale. Try to incorporate these tips into every day compromises and you’ll become more comfortable and ready for those future big asks.