The most important factor in the art of Negotiation



Negotiation has always been a challenge for most of us.

The primary reason can be attributed to the fact that the negotiating parties often enter into a discussion session with their own objective(s) in mind. And when there’s a conflict of interests (which is almost always the case), the relevant parties will stand their ground. This often results in a standstill or increased tensions.

When we turn to self-help books for assistance, we are often advised to seek common ground. While this is the right mindset, most of us will probably need specifications on how to go about doing that.  Most negotiators will make the effort to find common interests or similarities among the various negotiating parties and then state these common areas. However, most of the time, this will not work. A mere statement of agreement seems patronising, and most of us do not take well to that. It’s akin to two persons quarrelling and when one says that he’s right, the other merely replies with “All right, you got a point”.  While this statement will go down well with some of us, the rest will find this response to be more of an accommodative response than a genuine agreement. Doubts will still exist.

So, what can we do to negotiate successfully?

We need to find similarities and common areas. And yes, we need to put this message clearly across to other parties. However, more than that, we need to further explain and elaborate on why we agree. This is the crucial factor that most negotiators often overlook.  Take for instance, two entrepreneurs Peter and Tom deciding on the nature of their businesses. When Tom says that he prefers to delve into food and beverages, Peter can respond with “I understand the rationale behind the choice that you are making, but…” However, this approach is not convincing and seems patronising.

A better response from Peter will be:

“The food and beverage industry has always been a good industry to go into since all of us have to consume.  As long as we have set our prices at an affordable rate and select a place with reasonable rental rates, it should be a good idea.  Now, I am thinking about apparel retailing though. Although clothes are not a necessity like food, fashion has been an increasing focus by teens in recent years. What with the proliferation of fashion through the media, we should be able to earn a profit if we spot the right trend. And the profit made through a sale of one piece of clothing more than substantiates the sale of one dish of fish and chips, right? ”

Although Peter’s response might not be received well by Tom, it’s undeniable that Peter has managed to put his idea across to Tom without offending him while at the same time, Peter has assured Tom that they are on the same side. Interestingly, most of us will find it almost impossible to argue with someone who is on our side.

The same can be said when we talk to an angry person over a customer service counter. When we speak with a calm voice while maintaining the stand that we are on their side through our explanation, the other parties not only calmed down, they – more often than not – are willing to at least compromise. Such is the impact of us showing understanding and compassion. But more importantly, it’s our act of finding common ground and then subsequently explaining our position to the other parties that usually change the outcomes of negotiations, usually for the better.

Thus, it can be observed that the art of negotiation cannot be separated from customer service. When we have learnt to negotiate well, we are actually improving our skills in customer service as well. I believe that the contrary hold true. Good customer service personnel are often great negotiators.

So, finding common ground and explaining that we understand the other party’s point of view before putting foward our points of view are crucial to successful negotiations.


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