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The 6 Negotiation Skills Everyone Should Have

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Whether they realize it or not, most people negotiate all the time. They negotiate with their coworkers over which projects to prioritize, their employer over salary, their friends over what restaurant they should visit, their supplier over their contract, and so on.

Knowing the six essential negotiation skills -- and practicing the ones you’re weaker in -- will give you a leg up in every area of your life.

(More of a visual thinker? Click here to jump to the infographic we created with presentation designers 24Slides.)

The 6 Most Important Negotiation Skills

1) Rapport-building

If you form a human connection with the other party, they’re less likely to view you as the enemy. You’ll have an easier time reaching an agreement that makes you both satisfied. They’ll also be more receptive to your initial offer.

Quick tips:

  • Show up with coffee and/or snacks to share.
  • Spend a few minutes beforehand on lighter topics.
  • Sit on the same side of the table as the other negotiator(s).

2) Active listening

The quickest way to lose a deal? Monopolize the conversation and ignore the other person every time they do get a spare word in. Even the most eager-to-sign prospects will be turned off by your aggressive behavior. In contrast, listening closely will show respect and give you valuable insight into their priorities.

Quick tips:

  • Listen just as much -- if not more than -- you speak.
  • Pause before responding. You might think the person has finished their thought, but they may just be taking a breath.

3) Mirroring

Imitating the words, gestures, and expressions the other person is using will make you appear more trustworthy. It takes some skill to pull this off without them noticing.

Quick tips:

  • Pay attention to the phrases they repeatedly use and use them, too.
  • After they change position, wait five to 10 seconds and then match them.

4) Emotional objectivity

As soon as you demonstrate emotion during a negotiation -- whether it’s excitement, frustration, anxiety, or impatience -- you reveal your vulnerabilities. Also, getting flustered hinders your decision making skills. Strive to stay calm and unemotional.

Quick tips:

  • If you can sense you’re losing your grip, request a five-minute break to get something to drink or visit the bathroom.
  • Take a few deep breaths.
  • Pause before speaking so you don’t accidentally say anything rash.

5) Ability to walk away

Any agreement isn’t always better than no agreement. In other words, you need to recognize when you’re compromising so much the deal is no longer worth it. Come knowing your minimum acceptable offer -- and be prepared to walk away if the other party won’t meet that.

Quick tips:

  • Make sure you don’t succumb to the pressure of the moment by writing down the lowest price or deal you’ll accept on a piece of paper.
  • Practice politely saying, “Unfortunately, I can’t go below X. Let me know if that’s not feasible for you.”

6) Creativity

Successfully crafting a win-win agreement usually requires getting creative. Try to think outside-the-box so you’re not limited to standard price haggling.

Quick tips:

  • Ask the other party, “What’s important to you besides cost?”
  • Brainstorm non-monetary concessions, like extended support, early access to new features, tickets to exclusive events, free consultations, check-ins with a member of your executive team, and so on.

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