Great listeners are great negotiators

Great listeners are great negotiators

Every negotiation can be made smoother by making a conscious decision to listen more intently.

It’s important to enter a negotiation with clarity about what you want and why you’re entitled to it. But you may be overcomplicating these discussions by not consciously listening.

Here’s three ways to shift your approach:

1. Encourage the other person to lead – to talk through their position. Relax and listen to where your positions align and differ. Then, focus only on the differences.

2. Listen out for ‘patterns of behaviour’ – with people you negotiate with regularly, prepare what you’ll say to one of their ‘typical responses’.

3. Quiet the noise – if you’re struggling to think clearly, notice if people aren’t listening to each other. Pause, call time out, then reset the conversation.

These shifts can simplify your negotiations and help you get what you want with ease.

When NOT to negotiate

It does seem strange that we would suggest there are times when you should consider not negotiating. Let’s face it, we do it for fun, as well as because it’s our job.

However, the reality is, there are times when negotiating is either not necessary or not right.

Sam says:

I recently got the impression that my family feels a bit funny sometimes when I ask a salesperson, ‘is that the best price you can do’. I think that has to do with their uncomfortability with asking the question, more than it being inappropriate.

So that’s not really a reason not to negotiate.

But, there are times when you have to play a bigger game….

At Other Side of the Table, we believe a good negotiation is a fair and reasonable exchange of value. But not all negotiations are smooth sailing – they can be tricky. They can get heated. And there is risk involved.

Sarah says she often finds herself choosing not to negotiate. With every negotiation, I tend to think strategically about it in its entirety first. It’s important to me to always focus on the value of the relationship first.

I consider:

  • Who is sitting on the other side of the negotiation table? What is my relationship with them? – Is it a deeply engrained or important relationship (i.e. a senior executive in the Company with a lot of weight, a sponsor who invests heavily, a key stakeholder I need to work with on an ongoing basis, a husband/wife/partner). Or a smaller, less important relationship? (i.e. Your electricity provider, the salesperson at JB Hi-FI? Your neighbour you have to see every few days over the fence.)
  • What is the value of this relationship to you?
  • How much do you care about the outcome? How much impact does it have on you?
  • What’s my ultimate end game? How does this negotiation fit in?
  • Will this negotiation help or hinder my relationship with the other party, especially if it doesn’t g­o to plan?

It seems like a lot to consider, but it is simply a quick assessment to determine how to strategically approach the negotiation.

This quick assessment helps you to consciously choose whether to participate in the negotiation or not. Sometimes, you will choose to stand firm and negotiate for the outcome you need. But other times, if the outcome doesn’t impact you hugely or you can see a greater play, perhaps it’s an opportunity to not engage, or to give the other party a little win and make them feel like they’re getting what they want – with the end focus on maintaining the relationship for a longer term outcome.

It’s a balance. And it’s strategically “picking your battles” with the end game in mind.

Be clear, it takes energy to have intentional conversations, and it’s important to quickly go through our APEC Framework for even the smallest of deals, but it’s also important to decide through this process if YOU want to do engage in this negotiation. There is a difference between avoiding a negotiation, and consciously deciding not to engage.

Only you can determine the best path to follow, but whatever you decide – you don’t want to be left wondering, by deciding not to participate you shouldn’t consider it again – just move on and be happy that you consciously decided the path to tread.


This piece was co-authored by Sam Trattles and Sarah Procajlo – if you want to talk further about this concept, get in touch today.