No-Deal Brexit, the Iran deal, the Paris Agreement—sometimes it feels as if the future of the world rests on our negotiation skills. And the truth is, sometimes, it sort of does. From business to politics, to personal relationships, being able to navigate the rocky landscape of “the deal” is key to success across the board.
But be sure to avoid some of the most common negotiation mistakes—everything you do during these discussions can influence the result, and the language you use is no exception. From the moment you meet the counterparty to the very last seconds of decision-making, adding specific language and phrases to your negotiation skills vocabulary will help you become a better negotiator.
Putting your best foot forward
When entering negotiations for the first time, you might think of the person across the table as your adversary. And while testosterone-pumped movies like The Wolf of Wall Street may feed into a narrative of “the business battlefield,” this kind of hostility won’t get you anywhere. Whoever you’re negotiating with, the most important thing to remember is that they are people with the same emotions as you.
So instead of trying to intimidate or domineer, welcome the other side to negotiations with a warm statement, and use negotiation language like, “we’re glad that you could come and we hope you enjoy your stay here.” This will help build your relationship with the counterparty, make them feel at ease, and encourage mutual respect for one another.
Are you listening?
During negotiations, as in all healthy relationships, listening is key. Attempts to simply bulldoze the discussion with your own agenda or openly undermine the other party’s viewpoint will only turn the tide against you: no one wants to go into business with a bully.
Instead, using your negotiation skills and key language to assure the other party that you understand their stance and want to come to a mutually beneficial decision, is sure to gain their trust. Phrases like, “I see what you mean” or “that’s a good point,” serve as positive indications of your engagement in the conversation and your genuine respect for the counterparty.
However, overuse of these phrases (especially if they’re always followed by a “but…”) will have the opposite effect, making you seem fake and untrustworthy. So use this particular set of negotiation skills and language sparingly, or only if you can truly stand behind your words.
The art of being firm but fair
So how do you tread the line between being an “understanding business partner” and simply a “pushover”? In our desire to make a good impression or schmooze the counterparty, we may trip up and fall into “crowd-pleaser” territory, reducing our leverage and appearance of power.
If you find yourself disagreeing or needing to reject an offer, don’t beat around the bush or introduce doubt with subjective phrases like, “I don’t think we can match/accept that” or “I’m not sure that’s going to be possible.” Instead, add phrases like “I’m afraid that those conditions are unacceptable because…” to your negotiation skills and language arsenal to assert your authority in the fairest way possible.
Are they hearing you loud and clear?
Another critical negotiation skill for success is clarity. The discussion is likely to go much more smoothly if everyone is on the same page and nobody thinks you’re pulling the wool over their eyes. Rambling through the conversation without an established structure or clear arguments can give the impression that either you don’t know what you’re talking about or you don’t want the other person to know what you’re talking about—neither of which are conducive to a healthy business relationship.
It’s best to ensure that all your points come across clearly and are unambiguous. Using signpost phrases such as, “my main concern at this stage is…” or “I would like to emphasize that…” will give your potential business partner confidence in your proposal. Using clear and decisive language is a negotiation skill that will encourage the counterparty to take your position seriously.
No bad blood
Unsuccessful negotiations, however frustrating, are not the time to lose your cool. Destroying the mutual respect you’ve built up with an angry outburst will accomplish nothing and potentially ruin everything: you don’t know if the other party had been considering returning to the negotiating table at a later date.
Instead, make sure to leave on good terms and confirm that both sides understand what took place. Using phrases to summarize like, “the main points that have been made are…” make for a clear conclusion to the discussion, and provide a chance for last-minute clarifications from either party.
If you’ve ended on a more successful note, however, you will want to assure the other party of your commitment to this new relationship. Throw in positive phrases that look towards the future like, “we’re looking forward to exploring the opportunities that will come from our profitable business relationship.”
Using these key negotiation skills and language will have you navigating deals both big and small in no time. You’ll get the results you want, and who knows, maybe even influence the future of the world.