Negotiation is a fact of life. Little children learn about it early. You did, too. Were you effective? Are you now? Do you want to improve your abilities? Feel better about both the outcome and yourself when negotiating? You can.

Effective negotiation is not a contest of wills to determine who has the most power. It is not a game in which each party seeks to best the other. No contest. No games. But, there are rules! Rules that make the dialogue respectful and the outcomes fair.

In Getting to Yes, Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In, Roger Fisher and William Ury of the Harvard Negotiation Project tell us that there are four main keys to successful negotiation:

1. PEOPLE. Separate the people from the issues. There is no need to personalize the issues with remarks about the person on the other side of the table. Stick to the issues. Recognize that there is emotion and investment on both sides and be prepared to listen well. You know what Steven Covey says, ‘Seek first to understand, then, to be understood’. Be soft on people and hard on issues. This way you can keep the relationship AND a mutually satisfying outcome.

2. INTERESTS. Focus on the interests of the other, rather than the position. Behind each position lies compatible as well as conflicting interests. For example, when negotiating a raise, a wise person acknowledges that the interests of the company are to be progressive while making a profit. The wise boss acknowledges the interests of the employee to accelerate on his/her career path while making a contribution to the company and supporting his/her lifestyle or family. Negotiations do not take place in a vacuum. Each person has a real life going on, with real needs and interests.

3. OPTIONS. Work with the other party to generate a variety of options from which to create a solution. Brainstorm possibilities without judgment or comment. You’d be surprised how many good ideas can surface when this is allowed to occur. Make no decisions until you’ve exhausted your list of possibilities. Then, look for areas of agreement. Where are your interests shared? Where are the interests a good fit? Explore options that are of low cost to you and high value to the other party and vice versa.

4. CRITERIA. It is imperative to negotiate within mutually agreed-upon standards of fairness. Otherwise, negotiating can turn to street-fighting! These criteria may range from current market value to procedures for resolving conflict. They will allow you to create an equitable solution while keeping your relationship intact. Want proof? Try it at home!

Negotiating fairly builds trust. Demonstrations of power erode it. Before beginning to negotiate decide on the ground rules and stick to them. You are setting the standard for future conversations as well. Remember, you teach people how to treat you in two ways: you know, set and enforce your boundaries, and, you demonstrate your values in the ways you treat others.

Bargaining and maintaining strong positions are best left for those fun holiday moments when you do not really care whether or not the street vendor sells you that black velvet painting. In the business world, those tactics may bring you short-term results, however, the long-term damage to the relationships involved may be irreparable. Remember, wherever there is a winner, there must be a loser. Hard-nosed bargaining usually leaves both sides exhausted, resentful and dissatisfied. You may know this from bitter experience. You’ll especially relate to this if you were on the losing end!

Before entering into a dialogue of negotiation, be clear about the outcome you prefer. Be able to express this preference well with supporting statements that will make sense to your partner. Be prepared to listen more, or, at least, as much as you speak. Listen for common interests and possible options. Know what you are willing to give as well as what you would like to receive.

When you are focused this way, you will get more of what you want more often while winning friends and influencing people. What a compelling reason for integrating the rules into your next negotiation!

© Rhoberta Shaler, PhD

Author's Bio: 

Dr. Rhoberta Shaler is the author of Wrestling Rhinos: Conquering Conflict in the Wilds of Work and founder of the Optimize Institute and WorkplacePeopleSkills.com. A well-respected psychologist, speaker, consultant and coach, she works with organizations that know their people are their top resource, and with enlightened leaders who know that building relationships must be a top priority. They know that working with Dr. Shaler creates right-sized, high-performance teams that are consistently effective and profitable--especially in a troubled economy.

Author of more than two dozen books and audio programs, Dr. Shaler offers cost-saving professional development through training delivered both in person and on the telephone. Call Dr. Shaler now and optimize your success. Visit www.OptimizeInstitute.com & subscribe to her ezine, The Rhino Wrestler