Negotiating is one of the most misunderstood but arguably the most important tools to have in life. Every exchange involves some level of negotiation, from determining what clothes to wear in the morning to convincing a friend to see your point of view or do something with you. Seeings it's importance to everyday life, it may be hard to understand why it isn't considered a much more important tool for communication, but the truth is you don't have to be a great negotiator to get through day to day life. Being good enough works for most, and because few have seen a great negotiator in action, fewer still understand what can be gained from great negotiating. Discussed below are some of the reasons why negotiating is important, as well as a process for negotiating effectively. Finally, a pdf is attached that provides a game for learning the benefits of great negotiation.
Short term gain results in long term losses: Too often people view negotiations as a one-time process. This mindset encourages people to create the best solution for themselves without considering the implications for the other side. As such, because people don't believe they will be working with the group again, they create scenarios that when they do negotiate in the future (as often happens), they no longer can negotiate with goodwill intact. For example, some people will make deals look better than they are in order to maximize profit during this deal, and the destruction of credibility will hinder the creation of a good deal in the next negotiation.
Tensions between self interest and group interest: This is a very real and very problematic situation for many. In the short term, self interest wants to take over, but in the long term, group interests is always the way to go because of the credibility, trust, and goodwill that develops.
Trust is hard to build but easy to break: Because of this truth, the maxim of always tell the truth is recommended. Although the truth can hurt you in the short term, in the eyes of others you will be regarded as courageous, honest, and trustworthy, which will encourage people to work with you in the future. They know you won't try to hide things, which results in mutual respect and improve your communication and effectiveness. This, though, can be taken away in a heartbeat, so guard your reputation fiercely.
Reciprocity is important for building a relationship: Thinking win-win is the ideal, and following through or creating those scenarios allows a relationship to develop. By doing others favors, and asking for favors in return, trust is slowly being built. With each positive interaction, a relationship develops with goodwill that can be used when conflicts or problems can (and usually will) develop.
Positive coalitions act as agents for change: By developing strong, trusting, and positive relationships with others, you can coordinate efforts to create mutually beneficial results that would be impossible to achieve by acting independently. No man is an island, nor is any organization. As such, develop great relationships with other organizations to create long lasting and high impact change.
Negotiation isn't something someone either has or doesn't have, it is something that takes time and dedication to develop. While some may have a natural propensity for it, anyone can become at least competent at creating great deals. The easiest way to learn negotiation is through practice, and lots of it! Appended below is a worksheet that details a negotiation game anyone can play, and another easy way to work on negotiation skills is to play board games with lots of tabletalk. Good luck and have fun!
The X-Y Negotiation Game