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Effective Communication Skills Training

Dec 11, 2007
Effective communication skills training can make all the difference to your career. Below are a few tips on communicating effectively in situations where negotiation is key.

Experienced vs. inexperienced negotiators

Inexperienced negotiators often miss out by wanting to close too early or get what they want without really co-opting the other side. If you take this approach, you may miss out by playing too tough or too keen. Here are some options that you can try instead:

Pretend to throw yourself on the other side's mercy; it's amazing what you can get simply by saying, 'help me out here, I'd really like to work with you but I'm in a difficult position being squeezed by my boss/sub-contractors/ channel partners/etc so what can you do to...'

Use 'we' a lot; if you want the other side to open up, paint a future in which it's already happening. Use 'imagine' to open up the doors and work backwards from there.

Test the waters by using 'how about... and following up with 'what do you think?' that shows you're just floating an idea to see if they are interested. It doesn't mean that you are wholly committed to it either. But you will get the other side to state where they are.

Tough negotiations

When you are taking part in a tough negotiation where the stakes are high there are 4 golden rules:

Go with a negotiating partner. You can't pick up on all the clues, run the negotiation, remember all your points and stay on track without help. Take someone else with you.

Take plenty of breaks. You can't focus for more than 30 mins if you are really listening hard. Plus you need to confer with your partner other than with eye-meets (too telling) or kicks under the table! If you set the ground-rules up front, no-one will be surprised by your need for breaks.

Summarize frequently. That way you show you are listening, that you have achieved movement together.

Leave the toughest thing until well beyond the half-way point. Then you'll be able to talk about what you have agreed, the positive steps you have made and the progress you're looking forward to. If you tackle the toughest thing first, you may hit stalemate and you then have no basis from which to move forward.

Negotiation no-nos

When you are negotiating here are some things that you need to avoid doing at all cost.

Don't write any numbers or terms down. If you do, you are signaling acceptance to the other side and you don't want to do this without getting something first.

Don't say 'this is a good/fair offer.' That kind of comment is calculated to annoy. Good and fair for who? Probably for you not them.

Don't say 'this is my final offer'. It never is and it may act as a red rag to a bull if you do say it. There is no such thing as a final offer: there's always more to talk about, you'll always trade price for volume, so don't say anything amateur and close the door on yourself.
About the Author
Jessica Pryce-Jones is MD of iOpener Ltd: a UK-based management consultancy which focuses on improving happiness at work. iOpener run Effective communication skills training courses.
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