Negotiation is an essential skill for business success. If you want to advance beyond your competitors, if you want to have an edge, if you want to close more deals…you must employ negotiation tactics in your business dealings every day.

The characteristics of effective business strategies are remarkably similar to all other human relationships; how one deals in business relationships reveals how one deals in family relationships, and vice-versa. When someone tells you they are doing such and such because “it’s business, so it’s different”, be don’t be quick to assume it true.  A closer look will reveal the manner in which they deal with a colleague or business associate is dramatically similar to how they deal with a family member, or other human relationship. The manner in which someone negotiates is an evidence of how they view other people.

There are two main considerations when discussing successful negotiation: pride and principles. These two aspects play off of each other in any negotiation. They are similar in that both can lead to a deadlock, which is a fruitless negotiation. But they are different in that pride is motivated by arrogance and self interest, and can damage both parties to the deal, whereas principles are motivated by conviction, and can benefit both parties of the deal.

A close cousin of pride, egotism, is the attitude that all things are measured against one’s self interest. It is often present in negotiations but it is poison to successful negotiation.  It’s very acceptance into a negotiation can destroy the purpose of negotiating in the first place.

When someone states at the outset of a negotiation that they are “not negotiable”, they’re either posturing (trying to create an impression), or they’re serious. If posturing, the simple expose is to call their bluff and see how tough they really are. But if they are serious and truly non-negotiable, further discussion with them is likely a waste of time.

The real issue is not how much or how little the other side will negotiate, but WHY they are saying and doing what they are. If the motive is pride or egotism, the ensuing conversations will include one-upmanship, brinkmanship, and ongoing banter… not very productive in the overall scope of things. But, if their motive is principle or conviction, there might be a quick path to settlement and moving on.

If the issue isn’t pride, it may be principle. Believe it or not, there are some things which are absolutely non-negotiable. When you are talking personal convictions, religious beliefs, and company ideals, there may be no settling. That’s okay; you’re seeing free enterprise working itself out. “Principle” differences which stifle negotiations are the line-in-the-sand boundaries, and they will not be crossed. These are good to know and follow, because compromising them away creates disrespect and distrust from the other side.

If someone compromises his or her principle for short term gain, what else will they do? How far can you trust this person?

To position yourself in the strongest possible stance in any negotiation, you must:

  1. Leave pride at the door. It never helps a negotiation to consider your perspective the only important one. The other side will flex with you if you flex with them. Negotiation strength is found in humble determination.
  2. Know where you must draw the line, the point at which you will walk away. You have to cement in your mind where the bartering must stop. Everyone has a point beyond which they will not go. Find yours, make sure your reason is legit, and stand by it.
  3. Respect the other side’s principles. There are non-negotiables in the business world, as there are in the rest of life. If you can show the opposing side you respect what is important to them, they will be more likely to respect what is important to you.

Spending time to learn and develop negotiation skill is time well spent. If you can hold on to your principles and let go of pride, you will be far ahead of your competition when sitting down to negotiate deals for your business, and you will gain respect from your business associates and competitors.

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