Summer time is now officially ended in Australia. Over the summer, I had some time to reflect on what summer means. For me, it means holidays, sun, sand, surf, family time, different surroundings and new neighbours. As we normally do, we had a camping trip down the coast and so summer also means negotiating over how close to the border of your temporary plot of land you can hammer in your tent pegs. Do I just meekly accept other’s opinions and decisions? Should I stomp my feet and hustle out of there once I’ve made my opinion known? Or can I find somewhere where both of us are happy?
Negotiations are a necessity
Negotiations are a fact of life. But they are not easy to do well. The summer holiday always presents new challenges to my negotiation skills with the new people, new topics of possible contention, and new physical constraints. This got me thinking about what makes a successful negotiation. This important skill of negotiation is something that we engage in almost right from our birth and often feel less than confident in pulling off. Your confidence can crumble, especially when it comes to playing in the big sand pit with a more powerful player like an auditor.
Here is what I’ve learned.
- The first thing to realise is that you should decide issues on their merits rather than through a haggling process. Actively look for mutual gains and where interests conflict because it doesn’t have to be an adversarial, “winner takes all” outcome.
- Separate the people from the problem. This objectivity will help you to clearly see a mutually beneficial solution.
- Focus on interests not positions. Sure, you might find that the auditor is playing a game of power and they seem entrenched in their position, although you could think about ways you can diffuse this. Don’t forget you have some power in the interaction!
- Invent multiple options looking for mutual gains before deciding what to do. Don’t just rush in to act on your first idea. Thinking of multiple options before the interaction will help you get to an outcome you are satisfied with.
- Insist that the result be based on some objective standard. If it is merely the opinion of the other person, take it back to what the standard requires.
It takes time and practice, and sometimes you need a mentor to teach and support you. That’s where engaging someone like one of our team members at MAS Management Systems can help. Contact us if you’d like to learn more.