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Business Tips

Three Unexpected Ways to Help Make Your Negotiations Go Better

Silhouettes of man and woman farmers with hats shaking hands in field during sunset

From salary talks to everyday dialogue with supervisors and colleagues to do with who gets the most in-demand assignments and the most convenient schedules, negotiations tend to be everywhere in the workplace. It’s common to think of negotiating as a disagreeable process, one in which you push for demands, and the other party resists; in reality, however, such clear divisions aren’t necessarily a part of what happens. Your relationships with the people you negotiate with often play an important role in the effort; relationships can actually strengthen and improve through the process.

With this idea in mind, what follows is a set of tactics to try the next time you negotiate with a supervisor, boss, or colleague, to make things happen for you. Rather than see negotiating as a purely adversarial process, it can help to try to hack the effort to achieve better results.

Pretend to yourself that you’re doing it for someone else

Before you begin negotiating to achieve something you need, it can help to imagine that you aren’t negotiating for yourself, at all. Instead, you tell yourself that you’re working to achieve results for a parent you love, a sibling, a romantic partner, or a dear friend. If you were doing it for someone you loved, how hard would you work on bargaining for the things in question?

It might seem intuitive to think that you’d try the hardest for yourself — after all, who cares about your interests more than you do? In reality, however, when you think that you’re responsible for someone else’s life, you tend to be more conscientious, and to put in a more honest effort.

When you prepare to negotiate, then, it can help to keep in mind how the results that you achieve are likely to impact those you love. You’re likely to find greater inner strength to negotiate when you’re fully aware that the outcome may affect the happiness of your loved ones.

Put yourself in your opponent’s place

As you put in preparatory work ahead of a negotiation, it can help to try to think of the problem on hand from the other person’s perspective. A study done at Columbia University by researcher Adam Galinsky found that when negotiators thought of the other person’s point of view, they were usually better able to come up with solutions that worked well for both parties.

As an example, if you needed to negotiate a salary raise, before you began talking to your boss about it, it would help to sit down and honestly think about what kind of problems your boss would face granting you your request. Perhaps the organization is struggling with budget cuts; maybe they worry about how if they granted you your request, they would face pressure to pay others more, as well. It could help make your request for a raise more acceptable if you could first think of ways to save the department money on its budget, or accept more responsibilities to justify the raise. Talking about what you’ve done, you’re more likely to find common ground with your boss.

There is one caveat to be aware of, however. It’s important to understand that you need to bear in mind how your opponent thinks, rather than how they feel. In negotiations, empathy for the other person’s feelings can hamstring you in your efforts to win a bigger piece of the pie.

Put in a request for advice

It can be hard to signal vulnerability when you’re in the middle of a negotiation. An admission of a lack of confidence or knowledge, and asking for your opponent’s thoughts and ideas, may seem like exactly the wrong thing to try. If you’re in the middle of negotiating a job offer, going out of your way to ask for advice may seem like undermining yourself.

Nevertheless, when there is a tough issue that you need to negotiate for, it can help to ask your opponent to offer you the benefit of their wisdom. Asking your opponent what they think you should do in your situation can disarm them, flatter them, and help you get them to be your advocate.

As an example, if you need to negotiate for a higher compensation package than you’re being offered, it can help to offer your boss a specific reason why the higher compensation level that you have in mind is absolutely essential to you — perhaps to help pay for a college course you’ve taken up to complete in the evenings, or to help pay for a parent’s healthcare. When you make your opponent a part of the way you think, they are likely to begin to think for you, rather than against you.

When you next need to set up negotiations for a new job, for better pay, benefits, or anything else, it can help to give these three ideas a go. These tactics can help you take your negotiations to a new level, and make talks more comfortable for both parties, and more productive.