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Successful Negotiator

The Successful Negotiator

Negotiations may be repetitive or one of a kind. Negotiations in which the parties are convinced that they will not negotiate again, for example, haggling over price by a tourist in a foreign market, differ from those in which there is a probability that the parties or the organizations they represent will negotiate in future.

Requirements for successful negotiators

Successful negotiators see deal making as a collaborative effort and problem-solving process and not as something that requires confrontation and competition.

Skilled negotiators are:

  • Good observers;
  • Make sound judgments;
  • Patient, and appreciate humor;
  • Ready to listen;
  • Open, genial, civil, and have an agreeable manner of speaking;
  • Able to provide quick replies to unforeseen surprises or comments;
  • Able to discover how their counterparts are feeling and thinking;
  • Able to resist the temptation to speak before thinking.

Good negotiators try to be realistic in the sense of accepting an outcome as being determined by the balance of forces and interests without tying to reinterpret this "balance" in their favour. Instead of taking a situation for granted, they recognize that their counterparts' evaluations as well as their own may change during the negotiation, that issues are not given or imposed but they are defined by themselves and by their counterparts.

Good negotiators are flexible, not because they do not have a firm position but because they recognize of bounds and constraints that limit the set of possible compromises as well as the possibility of relaxing them. They are also flexible in the tactics because they realize that there is a need to discriminate between occasions when it pays to adhere to rules of accommodation and when it does not. They can distinguish between situations where it would be disastrous to make a threat and from those where it is essential to threaten or even to bluff. They know when to humor the personal quirks of their counterparts and when to ignore them. They are willing to disregard propaganda losses at one time and to negotiate merely for propaganda at another time.

Good negotiators need be patient. They should be patient in working for seemingly lost causes, because by doing so they may slowly change the opponent's views and objectives. They should be patient to live with conflict and uncertainty and know that they may have succeeded even if (or precisely because) their negotiations failed. Above all, they must maintain the will to win. Wise negotiators know that the best deal is one that is good for both sides. If the agreement is mutually beneficial, both sides have an incentive to maintain it. It is better to recognize the possibility of renegotiation at the outset and set down a clear framework with which to conduct the process. In short, a successful negotiator must recognize the possibility of redoing the deal, but controlling the process.

Negotiators must be able to decide how open to be about personal preferences and needs, and how much to trust the other party. The dilemma of honesty and openness suggests that, if a negotiator is completely open and honest about what he wants, or will settle for, he many not do as well as, if he bluffs or fights harder for a better settlement. On the other hand, if he is deceptive and dishonest about what he really wants or will settle for, the parties may never come to an agreement that would be workable. Most negotiators resolve this dilemma by being very careful and guarded at the beginning of negotiation, and revealing more of their true needs as they can come to trust the other side.

Similarly, the dilemma of trust suggests that negotiators need to assess the degree of trust the counterpart's ability to lie or bluff, and the degree of unveiling own interests and objectives. Negotiators need to know also that they cannot believe everything their counterpart says because an agreement will never be reached. Most negotiators resolve this dilemma by probing their counterparts' statements for truthfulness, and for evidence that they will be true to their word.

Good negotiators do not make promises that they know they cannot keep or negotiate in bad faith. Any concession gained dishonestly will have an uncertain result because the deceived party will have a longstanding desire for vengeance. Negotiators should emphasize mutual benefits and mutual advantages. The secret of success is to point out the common advantages to both parties and to link these advantages so that they appear to be equally balanced.

Negotiators try to learn and understand their counterparts‟ values, motives, and objectives, not to determine the counterparts' weaknesses, gain a competitive advantage, and in this way achieve a better compromise. They try to establish an effective process, discover alternatives that are acceptable for their counterparts and the criteria that can jointly be used to assess alternatives.

The more and better the communication, the greater the amount of information shared or extracted, and the greater the build-up of trust, the more likely is the possibility of creating the satisfaction that negotiators require. In order to be effective the negotiator must be constantly alert to the distinctive qualities of the people with whom he is negotiating. He has to appreciate the meaning of their actions so as not to mislead or be misled by them, and to make his own points in a way that promotes advantageous outcomes. Effective negotiators operate as detectives searching for clues to the values and interests of their counterparts. They avoid assumptions about their partner's concerns; they look for what does matter to the partner rather than what should matter.

Characteristics of the successful negotiator

The list below is quite long and many successful negotiators do not possess all of the qualities. So you need not feel discouraged, if you are short in some of these points.

Good communication

  • Good communication skills;
  • Persistent;
  • Flexible;
  • Tactful and respectful;
  • Open minded;
  • Able to use the subject knowledge;
  • Willing to take risks;
  • Physical stamina;
  • Self-confidence;
  • Decisiveness;
  • Creative;
  • Willingness to listen;
  • Self-control;
  • Long-run outlook;
  • Sensitive to the interests and needs of others.

It is very important however, that:

  1. You know your strengths as well as you know your weaknesses.
  2. Your strengths are indeed strengths (and weaknesses-weaknesses); they are not your expectations.

  June 23, 2018
© Copyright 1996-2018 Gregory Kersten & The InterNeg Group
InterNeg Research Centre, Concordia University (Montreal)