Negotiation is a practical everyday skill. In a virtual learning and development program hosted by XED Institute of Management  and delivered by SC Johnson College of Business, Cornell University, Prof. Stephen Sauer explained that in reality, every conversation we have is a negotiation. Mastering behaviours of effective negotiation will empower you to have a lot more control both in your career and in everyday life.
Achieving any feat in this world involves negotiation. Negotiation is how you influence another person, group or even an entire organisation. The goal of effective negotiation is to find the balance between empathy for what others want and assertiveness for what you want. The other side is never the adversary. An effective negotiator works with the other party to find a solution to the challenge in front of both the parties. The goal should be a win-win and never a win-lose. Even if you end up in the ‘win’ corner of a win-lose negotiation, in the long term, the relationship between the parties is irretrievably damaged and thus shuts doors on future collaborations and business opportunities.


“Surprise comes not from what we didn’t know, but from what we didn’t know that we didn’t know.” – Prof. Stephen Sauer

Effective negotiation is rarely spontaneous. You have to clearly be aware of what you want and also what the other party wants from the negotiation. When you realize that one part of the agreement is valued a lot more by the other party, you must offer them the option to have all of that part and use this gesture as leverage to claim value in another part of the negotiation that is of high value to you. You also need to question yourself about the parts of the agreement that you are threatened or worried about. Preparing the best response to those areas of the discussion where you might be vulnerable, gives you a lot more control in your actual conversation with the other party.


More often than not, most people are not aware that negotiating is an option. They think of negotiation as an act of being pushy or demanding. The fear of conflict and defeat are other threats that inhibit many from indulging regularly in negotiations. Statistics show that women ask a lot less often than men for a bigger office, better designation, or higher pay.
The widespread stereotype is that men provide and women care. So the double bind for women is that when women take charge they are disliked. But when they do not take charge they are perceived as less competent leaders. So, effective negotiators focus on finding the middle ground between assertive competitiveness and co-operative collaboration.


“Negotiation is the art of letting other people have your way.” – Chris Voss

You should always have a clearly defined target of exactly what you want, going into a negotiation. When you state a range in a negotiation, the other side only hears the number closer to the number that they are bargaining for. The one who puts the first number will anchor the negotiation. Planning your reservation point, the minimum terms you will accept is critical before you start a negotiation. You should also be aware that the other side will also in most cases have a reservation point. Having a BATNA (Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement) gives you a lot of ammunition. The fallback option gives you the liberty to assert your control over the negotiation. If you are prepared with MESO (Multiple Equivalent Simultaneous Offers) i.e. you give the choice to the other party to pick from multiple offers which are all of equal value to you, it helps the other party in their process of finding what they want and makes them feel in control of making the final decision, though you narrowed down the scope to contain only the options you want. Negotiation happens in the bargaining zone between the 2 reservation points. Irrespective of the history and relationship with the other side, you should be prepared to walk away from a deal if you can’t mutually find middle ground to agree on the terms.


“The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything.” – Warren Buffet

Prof. Stephen concluded by asking the women leaders who participated in the program to always ask! He said that study showed that both men and women negotiate equally when they are negotiating on behalf of others. So, Prof. Stephen encouraged the participants to start practicing negotiation by negotiating for others. Prof. Stephen also suggested the use of Power Posing explained by Prof. Amy Cuddy in her famous TED Talk and book titled ‘Presence’. Prof. Stephen explained that an expansive body language and even an expansive voice will both make you feel a lot more confident and in charge going into a negotiation. To be an effective negotiator we must always remember that negotiation is a skill. A skill can be learned and developed like any other skill by repetition on a daily basis.


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