In a previous post, I wrote about negotiating a win-win situation that is ultimately beneficial for all parties involved. However, sometimes there isn’t a lot of room for creative solutions and what one person wins the other loses. This is especially common in negotiations for homes, cars, and so on.

Some people seem to be lucky when it comes to negotiating, when in truth, they may just be more skilled negotiators. Thankfully for those not born with the gift of bargaining, there is hope. After all, negotiating is a skill that can be learned and improved upon through experience and practice.

1. Separate Emotion

Removing emotion from a deal can be hard work because we are so governed by the way things make us feel. But, it’s important to keep your emotions in check when you go to the bargaining table. If you don’t, you are likely to negatively impact a potential deal.

Last year, the Harvard Business Review published an article about the impact of anger on negotiations. After surveying several student groups, one researcher found that, “[b]ringing anger to a negotiation is like throwing a bomb into the process and it’s apt to have a profound effect on the outcome.” The researcher commented that when anger was introduced into the deal-making process, it often ended poorly with a complete impasse and, in the worst-case scenario, litigation.

2. Come Prepared

Like anything in life, preparation is key to being a effective negotiator. How will you negotiate if you haven’t set limits in your mind? For example, if you are negotiating the price of an object, how will you negotiate if you haven’t set limits in your mind on the value of the object?

Taking the time to draft a strategy or review various scenarios and outcomes will prepare you and give you an edge during the bargaining phase. The best negotiators know what they want at every step and plan accordingly. Negotiations are often give and take, so give yourself some wiggle room by aiming high.

Being prepared will also help keep emotions at bay because you will be focused on your negotiating plan, instead of letting emotions govern you.

3. Establish the Relationship

While you aren’t looking to become best friends, establishing a basic relationship between you and the other negotiating party will go a long way to fostering goodwill during the negotiations.

It’s important to also remember that effective negotiators craft their negotiations based on what the other person wants, not just their own desires. To achieve this, find common ground and build from there. Trying to change someone’s mind is extremely difficult, if not impossible and incredibly tedious. Instead, focus first on where you can agree. Establishing an even playing field also leads to mutual respect, which is another key aspect of negotiating successfully.

4. Talk Less, Listen More

There is an old saying among seasoned negotiators, “whoever talks the most during a negotiation loses.” To be a powerful negotiator, you must listen and figure out the other party’s goals, motives and desires. The only way to do this is to listen closely, then use the information to inform your bargaining strategy.

5. Know When to Stop

It seems counterintuitive, but over-negotiating is a problem. Negotiators can actually talk themselves right out of a deal.

Don’t be one of those negotiators.

Remember you are trying to negotiate in your favour, not prove a point. So, when the negotiations begin to break down or you have achieved your goal, that is your cue to stop.

Learning how to effectively negotiate is a life skill that can benefit anyone. But, like so many other skills, it takes practice to become a master. If you aren’t confident with your negotiating skills, practice at farmer’s markets or flea markets. This way you get to interact with seasoned negotiators, build your negotiating confidence, and you may even get a good deal as well.

Happy negotiating!

Dana Collette