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Let’s focus on the problem and not the person.

The art of negotiation is insanely tricky. Why? Because the art of negotiation commands that we know the game’s rules. Knowing the game’s rules also means that when we turn up to the table, we must be very clear about the issue we seek to negotiate. Have we checked our facts, assumptions, beliefs, and values? It is these very components that determine the narrative, we tell ourselves. Once we are clear about our why, we need to determine the strategy or tactic we seek to use, and again we must have clarity as to why we are adopting it. Let’s not forget the power of language. Our choice of words and how we structure and deliver our message are critical to enhancing the art of negotiation. Let’s also consider asking open-ended questions and actively listening to what is being said instead of thinking about our response.

This week participants in my workshops discovered that the art of negotiation should never be personal. It is a skill to mitigate differences in understanding, opinion, way of being, doing and relating. It is never about whether we like the person or not or about a power differential between individuals. When we honour the dignity of the human person, the art of negotiation is respectful and purposeful.

Setting boundaries and mutual accountability are two elements that complement the art of negotiation. Focusing on options that are mutually reciprocal and beneficial to both parties is the way to go.

So, next time you are anxious about negotiating with someone, ask yourself:

  1. What is it that you want to achieve?
  2. What are your non-negotiables? What will result in a win-win?
  3. With whom are you negotiating? What do you know about them?
  4. How will you share your thoughts? What strategies do you think will work?
  5. How will you keep calm?

The art of negotiation is never about the person; it is always about the problem. What are your thoughts?

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