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What, you’re not a professional negotiator? Surprise! Everyone is a negotiator — even if you don’t do it for a living. Take a few minutes and learn how you can make those give-and-take conversations a little more take and not so much give!

Successful negotiations turn on two things:

Knowledge — specifically, how much do you know about what you’re bargaining about? You’ll have to look elsewhere for help on that one because it could cover anything from getting your child to eat their vegetables to a multi-million dollar merger. It’s the second item where I can be helpful.

Communication Skill — not to be used as a weapon but as a tool, using your words and actions in a way which builds on and showcases your knowledge. Here are some things to keep in mind.

Connecting with People — What is a human being’s favorite sound? It is the sound of their name. So, knowing that, will you take the time to know and remember the name of the person you are dealing with? It is one of the simple human needs we all have. We want people to remember our name, we want people to listen to us, we want to have a sense we’re not just another number on a list and so the most successful negotiators never take any of these conversations for granted — they expend the energy needed to connect with that other person on the end of the phone line or in that conversation.

Have a Plan — Great negotiators never stumble into a situation unprepared. If you’ve been reading the Monthly Memo for some time you know there is plenty of research material out there stating how quickly people make up their minds about you, so make sure you know how you want to start any important conversation, especially ones involving negotiation. Once you have started well, make sure you make a point to LISTEN well, too! Part of the plan needs to include that time when your mouth closes and your ears open up!

Address the Objections — A lot of times I find I have to advise a client to ‘address the elephant in the room.’ Going into some of these negotiations you’ll know where the objections are likely to be found. What are they? Why wait? Perhaps it is best to get it out in the sunlight and get credit for being upfront about the issues between you. Also, if something comes up you had not considered, mention you hadn’t thought of that and take it into consideration. Showing that you are open to what they say will go a long way in building this relationship.

In the end, it really IS a relationship, not just a race to see who can beat the other person to the punch. Next month, we’ll have more on negotiation communication and using this skill to smooth out some of the rough spots in life!