Of all the Soft Skills, I’ve always felt that Negotiation is the least soft.
Partly, it’s because of the meticulous planning and almost forensic preparation which negotiations receive from teams locked away in war rooms, pouring over plans and scheming how to position the other side just where they want them to be. Tactics and strategies are selected with care and precision. The attention to detail is sustained right up to the final approach to a landing right on target. It’s serious.
The heavy duty attention to detail is understandable. There are high stakes involved. The outcome can be measured very precisely in units of money and will be highly visible inside the organisation and beyond.
Negotiation all adds up to a subtle blend of interpersonal skills, laser sharp reactions and impeccably honed instincts which we are either born with or without.
The good news for those of who are short on instincts is that on their own, they can never be enough. My dog will never catch the neighbour’s cat. He’s a brute force kind of guy. The cat on the other hand knows the short cuts and is very light on her feet. She’s cased the joint.
But cats aren’t great at being trained and although it may be true what they say about old dogs, which I doubt, young dogs can learn fast.
Indeed, planning is the Golden Rule of negotiation. I’ve had the privilege of seeing it in action particularly in team negotiations where question sequences lead into deeper probing which trigger’s the prospect of mutual opportunities leading to the prospect of a deal.
Another requirement for negotiation success is authenticity, in fact it’s needed for every soft skill.
Wait a minute though, my dog is ever so authentic but never outwits the cat which brings us to something I call ‘Authenticity Plus’ i.e. who we are the plus some tools and techniques like engagement, analysis, focus, responsiveness each of which when harnessed to our authentic selves, create a balanced, open and successful negotiator.
Authenticity brings in our judgement and reactions our values and common sense. We learn to trust ourselves.
Finally, negotiations may not always result in one side winning. Some sort of collaboration may be an outcome involving a deal which is more focussed on value, exchange of expertise for example, rather than dollars.
So, a negotiation snapshot. If you like the sound of it, you will probably be good at it. There’s a lot of scope for creativity in and at the start of your career, the sooner you sit in on one (bags need to be carried and documents copied) the sooner you will get an inside view of how the business operates.