Negotiation is a daily process for every human being. You negotiate when you are picking the restaurant to eat with your partner. Or when you are trying to discuss a promotion with your boss. Sometimes it works well to your advantage. Other times, not so much, it can leave you swimming in depth of infuriating circles.
What are negotiations?
Negotiation is a decision making process. Every time you need to reach an agreement with another person or a group, you negotiate.
For me. Like for most humans, mastering this process started at an early age.
When I was 5 years old, my family had only one TV and one Super Nintendo console. It was the mid-90s. I have an older brother. He was 12 at the time. For both of us, playing Nintendo was the only thing we wanted to do after school. Also, you had to factor our parents. They wanted to watch the TV sometimes. Or, if they were feeling funky, take control over the console.
Needless to say, we were constantly fighting over who will take Mario for a jumping ride. Shooting ducks with Nintendo guns was prime time fun. Some games you could play with two players, but nobody really wanted a 5 year old messing with their score. If they played with me, it would be out of sheer mercy. My mom would do it sometimes.
Playing these games was the end goal. The thing I was striving for so hard. It was fun. It was cool. Everyone was doing it. I just had to play.
At 5 years of my life, I started to understand some things. If I wanted to play, I needed to carefully negotiate my entry into the game.
I had the worst odds in the whole group. My brother or my parents could just use their position of power to play the console. My position had no authority. I had to jump hoops to get even near the opportunity to rescue Princess Peach.
It was a mess. But at an early age, I started to understand the process of negotiation. I soon realized my position, how to use it, what others want, how to navigate and what is the best thing I could do.
I wasn't very successful at the time. I don't remember ever recovering Donkey Kong;s stolen banana. Or what was the real objective of Link in The Legend of Zelda. But, the constant struggle proved out to be a learning experience.
Today, I'm on my way to becoming a professional diplomat. Negotiations are something diplomats are required to do constantly. If you ask a diplomat what do you do, most honest replay would be: I negotiate stuff. It is a part of the daily routine. Like entrepreneurs, we are required to negotiate everything we do.
Let me share 6 tips I learned so far.
How to step up your negotiation game:
1. Position yourself before you reveal your interests.
Every negotiation starts with both parties choosing their position. Most people won't see this bit as a negotiation process, but it is a crucial part. A good position will give us less headache with the rest of the talks. This way we frame the perspective of ourselves with the opposite party. Everything you do determines your position. The way you dress, the way you talk, the way you request. Each one of them plays a key role in determining the position.
"I want to eat something with you dear, but I'm tired. I'm already in my pajamas," she sighed.
"I'm also hungry, we should eat something," says John.
Sarah is positioning herself to avoid talking about going out for dinner.
2. Lows and Highs
Negotiation is a game of determining the highs and lows. You should know your highest possible outcome and the lowest you are ready to cave in. The other party has the same two factors on their mind. You play to reach your high or their low. Low is the lowest the other party is willing to get down to. Anything beneath that would be considered a scam. They would feel deceived.
Sarah's high was having him cook for her, and her low was ordering a delivery.
John's low would be cooking the dinner for both of them by himself. His high would be ordering a delivery.
3. Win-Win Scenario
This is a strategy that we should strive to use. Creating win-win scenarios leaves both parties feeling satisfied. They both have the chance to finish a deal in good faith. Creating outcomes which benefit both sides is self-rewarding. People will enjoy doing business or negotiating social gatherings more often.
"Sarah, let's cook something together for dinner. What do you feel like eating tonight?" John asks.
4. Understand Your BATNA
BATNA stands for Best Alternative To Negotiated Agreement. It is a negotiating strategy and a negotiating skill. A bit of both. Sometimes a deal might sound great, but it is a BATNA in disguise. We should be careful to know our best alternative and to recognize a good deal over them.
BATNA to Sarah and Jon's cooking would be eating the lunch leftovers. Something both would be ready to do but are not really enthusiastic about. Cooking together is a much better deal.
5. Something is always better than nothing.
This doesn't mean to say anything is better than nothing. Sarah, in this story, wouldn't eat live worms just to have any dinner. Your minimum is always better than receiving nothing. For Sarah and John, it wouldn't make much sense to get into an argument over where to eat end up being both hungry. Reaching no deal puts a strain on the relationship between parties. It shows that the two of you don't really function that well together.
In, this instance, food is always a better option than having no food. Even if this means going out to get some.
These 5 tips should help you shape an understanding around daily negotiations. Reaching positive agreements is a skill we perfect through our life. The better we are at it, the better our life quality is going to be. We'll be better at acquiring positive deals. We'll enjoy better relationships with our loved ones. More exciting experiences we can live through.
Don't forget—You negotiate every day!