Life and Career Advice: How to Negotiate and Compromise

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Regardless of how much we plan and organize, sometimes life throws things our way that we have no control over. And when those things are in direct opposition to the goals we are trying to accomplish, the ability to negotiate a compromise is a valuable skill. Here are a few thoughts on finding common ground that can be applied to both your professional and personal life.

Shift Your Mindset

For those like myself who always want to win at everything we do, compromising can often feel like settling. But it’s important to realize that when there are two opposing viewpoints, meeting in the middle may be the only answer. You’re not settling – you’re surviving! Find a way to rise above your ego and do what’s necessary to save the day, and along with it, your project or relationship with the client or loved one.

Put Yourself in Their Shoes

When contemplating a compromise, take some time to really understand someone else’s viewpoint. A few things to think about:

  • What do they truly want or need out of this interaction?
  • How have they responded or behaved in when previously in similar situations?
  • What would make them look good?

A key component to answering these questions is listening, something that can be hard to do when you’re stressed and overcommitted. But as Ed Brodow points out in his book Negotiation Boot Camp, listening does two very important things: it causes the other party to be respected and it builds trust. Both of these are important elements in any negotiation.

Know What You Want

While it’s important to understand the viewpoint of those with whom you are negotiating, you also have to be specific about what you want. Before you have a meeting or conversation, outline your priorities and your ideal outcome. If it helps to organize your thoughts, write them down or practice out loud and video tape yourself (as you all know, I’m a big believer in video!). Being clear and honest with yourself about what you want is especially helpful in two ways:

  • It allows you to ask for more than you actually want so that when a counteroffer is made, there’s some wiggle room.
  • It can help you avoid “buyer’s remorse,” that awful feeling you get when you leave negotiations with thought that you’ve sold yourself short.

Find Common Ground

If possible, try to find interests that you share or objectives that are important to both of you. This can help you get on the same side and focus on tackling the problem together, instead of approaching it like opponents.

Think Outside the Boxx

The art of compromise involves a certain amount of flexibility. If you’re going to meet in the middle, the outcome is going to look different than you originally envisioned. Use that as a creative challenge. How can you turn the circumstances into a win-win situation for both of you? Perhaps the person or business you are negotiating with can bring something to the table that you wouldn’t have been able to offer a client flying solo. Maybe someone you’re working with on a project has a different skill set that can enhance your own

End Well

Whenever possible, try to end negotiations on a positive note. This is about more than just deciding deal points – it involves putting your communication skills to work! Double-check that everyone is clear on the agreements you have made; outline next steps and who is responsible for them; and if applicable, what kind of follow-up evaluation may be necessary. Even if the process is rough, finding a way to end on a good note bodes well for the future of your business and personal relationships.

I am a big believer in getting what you want – but sometimes you’ll find that when you get what you need, reality is even better than what you imagined. And becoming a master of the art of negotiation is definitely Emma Approved!

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