How to improve your negotiation skills at work

We negotiate every day at work: I know I do! From everyday tasks to career-changing discussions, striking the right balance and effectively negotiating is crucial to getting the most out of your work life. Though it might not be at the top of your priority list, taking the time to improve your negotiation skills can be a complete game-changer. Let’s look at how you can enhance your negotiation technique.

Why focus on negotiation?

When people negotiate, they’re trying to achieve two things: to maximise their own gains and to reach a mutually beneficial outcome for everyone. The importance of effectively pursuing your goals in a negotiation cannot be overstated. In their workplace, the best negotiators can use their skills to advance towards long-term career goals and raise their productivity while avoiding conflicts. Proficient negotiators are a great asset when different organisations work together, helping those around them reach mutually beneficial outcomes. Whether dealing with clients, resolving workplace tension or building your reputation, there are substantial benefits to improving your negotiation skills.

Breaking negotiation down

I’ve encountered many different types of negotiation, each coming with its own challenges. Negotiation can be single-issue, or the parties can discuss multiple important matters simultaneously. Discussions can take place between two people or dozens of different groups. The dynamic when the negotiating parties have an ongoing relationship is very different to a one-off meeting. Whatever the format, negotiation typically follows a basic pattern. You’ll start with preparation: organising talks, clarifying your initial position and so on. Then you move on to discussions where the different parties set out their positions and goals. Hopefully, this process will uncover areas of agreement and potential outcomes that everyone’s happy with. 

So how do you make a positive impact? Let’s take a look at some ways to excel at negotiation.

Be empathetic

Don’t see the people opposite you as adversaries. Treat others respectfully, make eye contact and focus on your mutual goals. I know this sounds obvious, but you’d be surprised how much these simple steps can help you work with the people around you. An empathetic approach starts before you sit down at the negotiation table. When you’re preparing, reflect upon what other people need from your discussion, and try to focus on points of shared interest. One strategy you might want to try is role-playing the other side before the meeting. Understanding who you’re negotiating with allows you to connect and work with them far more effectively.

Do your research

It’s easy to rush through preparation, but taking the time to do your homework is always worth it. It’s essential to find out what people’s limits are: what can the person across the table actually deliver? If you don’t figure this out, you may end up in a situation where you ask for something the other person simply can’t provide. Research can also be immensely significant when you negotiate for promotions and other personal workplace changes. Information like the typical pay for different roles and the other opportunities you could take are great to have at the negotiation table.

Know yourself

At the end of the day, you won’t be able to control a negotiation and the different routes it can take. Even if you really want to! What you can control is your own approach. Part of that is looking at yourself in the mirror and knowing how you respond in different situations. Think about how you react to pressure and how you’d respond to different questions that might be asked. When going into tricky discussions, you need to make sure you’re ready to be your own advocate. Don’t put yourself down, and don’t be shy about the value you can deliver. 

Get some training

These steps are mostly easier said than done. That’s why many people seek out training to improve their negotiation skills. These days, there’s a great range of media you can access focused on improving negotiation tactics. Whether you prefer reading books and articles or listening to podcasts, keeping abreast of the latest negotiation approaches can put you one step ahead of the others. Taking classes can also really help, especially if you find courses specialising in helping people in your role. That way, you can receive bespoke advice and learn techniques catered precisely towards the situations you’ll encounter at work. I believe classes can make a real difference to people’s careers. That’s why I offer executive assistant training to help EAs excel and reach their full professional potential.

Breathe!

Once all is said and done, relaxing is one of the best steps you can take to improve your negotiation skills. It’s easy to get stuck in your own head during negotiations, especially when you’re trying to improve. Don’t forget to breathe. You don’t need to get everything right all at once, and there will be another opportunity to try out your skills in the future. Stay mindful and stay in the present: just stay focussed on your goals and help others reach an agreement. You’ve got this!