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    Negotiations play a major part in our everyday work experience. We negotiate with coworkers, colleagues, and customers in accepting ideas and proposals, in winning jobs, in buying and selling products or services, and in resolving conflicts. Yet repetition of the task hasn’t made it any easier. For centuries, negotiating in a formal setting has instilled fear in the hearts of people: the fear of intimidation and the fear of losing. Only recently have negotiators embraced the idea that all parties can walk away from a discussion as winners. And language plays a big part in setting the tone, shaping how people think and feel about working together, and dictating the final outcome.

    Certainly, the economic meltdown and recession of 2008–2010 turned executives in the financial, auto, and housing industries into negotiators—whether they welcomed the role or not.

    But former President George Herbert Walker Bush and his secretary of state, James Baker, probably did more to shape thinking about successful negotiations than any other pair of negotiators in modern history. Bush reasserted our security role in Panama, built the best relationship with Mexico in U.S. history, negotiated and signed the North American Free Trade Agreement, stood close to center stage in unifying Germany, remained resolute with regard to reshaping policies in South Africa, and held a careful balance on the sidelines during the collapse of the USSR. His finest hour was Desert Storm, when he assembled the largest coalition of nations in the history of the world to stand firm against Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait. Although looking back two decades later at the ongoing Middle East unrest, critics might say that the negotiated peace in Iraq did not last, but that does not detract from his efforts to stop the invasion of Kuwait.

    How did this pair triumph on so many negotiating fronts involving so many cultures and economies? The following tips will shed some light on this formidable process.

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    Tip 1: Avoid the Term Negotiate Whenever Possible

    The word negotiate implies a winner and a loser, or at best a compromise between two dissatisfied parties. Instead of “negotiating,” use phrasing such as “come to an agreement,” “work out a plan,” or “arrive at a workable arrangement.” Wording goes a long way in establishing a friendly atmosphere in which everybody feels like a winner.

    Tip 2: Consider Several Kinds of Goals Before You Begin a Discussion

    To make sure you don’t get sidetracked in talking, identify your primary goal, your immediate goals, your long-term goals, your “nice-to-haves,” and your safeguards. Within each of these frameworks, set ranges. What is the “best” you can expect, and what is the “worst” position you can accept? Keep all of this in mind as you work toward agreement.

    Tip 3: Research Your Position and the Situation

    Take the time and make the effort to support your position or requests. Read. Gather statistics. Talk to experts. Survey others for majority opinions. When you get ready to talk, you’ll have adequate facts and opinions to support what you want. The more you know, the better the position you’re in to negotiate a win for everybody involved.

    Tip 4: Refuse to Negotiate with a Missing Person

    This technique has been perfected in car dealerships around the world. The rep who shows you the car always has to trot to the back room to see if the head honcho “will okay the deal you’ve cut.” A more familiar version: An employee walks into your office and asks you to consider “sharing” an administrative assistant, proposing that the assistant work 40 percent of the time in your department and 60 percent of the time in his department. You discuss the division of labor and percentages back and forth and finally state “your best deal” for sharing salary and benefits.

    Then the employee announces that everything you’ve negotiated is subject to approval by the boss. In effect, that means that your “best deal” now becomes the starting point for the next round of discussions after you learn “what the boss said.” To avoid putting yourself in this one-down situation, don’t begin to negotiate until you are talking to the person who has authority to make a final decision.

  • About the Author

    Dianna Booher’s extensive and ongoing research and published works in the field of business communication and productivity serve as the foundation for over 40 books on communication skills training . Dianna has received the highest awards in the professional speaking industry, including induction into the CPAE Speaker Hall of Fame®. She is a member of the prestigious Speakers Roundtable. As a result of Dianna's work among top corporations on communication issues, Executive Excellence magazine has recognized Dianna on its list of the Top 100 Thought Leaders in America. Additionally, Successful Meetings magazine named Dianna on its list of 21 Top Speakers for the 21st Century! Dianna has been interviewed by Good Morning America, CNN, CNBC, USA Today, the Washington Post, New York Newsday, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Wall Street Journal Radio, National Public Radio, Bloomberg, Investors Business Daily, Fox Family Network, Reader's Digest, Working Woman, Industry Week, McCall's, Cosmopolitan, Success, Entrepreneur, among other national radio, TV, and newspapers. She holds a master's degree in English from the University of Houston.

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Negotiating So Everyone Feels Like a Winner

Develop win-win situations for all parties.

Proposing an idea with colleagues? Negotiating the salary for a new job? Buying a product or service? Learn to negotiate like the pros:

  • Evaluate your position, situation, and offerings.
  • Use appropriate questioning techniques to gather valuable information to formulate your negotiation goals.
  • Structure your negotiation strategies and discussions for best outcomes.
  • Recognize and avoid common pressure tactics.
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