• David Strittmatter

A skill everyone has to learn

Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate. - John F. Kennedy

Photo by Cytonn Photography on Unsplash

Dear friend,


As I moved to a new apartment in Düsseldorf, I had to buy a washing machine. I knew that I can save tons of money if I buy a used one. So, weeks before moving, I arranged a meeting with someone from “eBay Kleinanzeigen” (similar to Craigslist) who was selling a washing machine that seemed to fit all my needs. The machine was listed at a price of 350 EUR and was already 1 year in use. The original price was about 430 EUR.


Before we arranged the meeting, I asked the seller whether the price is negotiable and told her that similar models are sold for 250 - 300 EUR on eBay. As a response, she offered to lower the price to 250 EUR. I was quite happy, and so, we agreed to meet.


When we met, I found a washing machine that seemed as it was new - very clean, no dirt or mold, every cable flawless, and functional parts like the washing drum working well. It seemed like I made a very good deal. 250 EUR was definitely less than the seller could ask for.


But that’s not the end of the story.


For a few months now, I’ve been trying to improve my “sales skills”. I read Daniel Pink’s book “To Sell Is Human”, and since then, I’ve been strongly convinced that every person has to (A) understand the importance of “non-sales selling” and (B) ideally improve their sales skills. To put it in a nutshell, nowadays, most people work in jobs and have hobbies in which we have to convince other people of something - whether it’s the quality of our work, our ideas to solve a problem, or our suggestion to do vacation in Mexico instead of Spain. The skills required to convince others are what Daniel Pink calls “non-sales selling skills”. It’s the skills to move people, to create change in this world, and ultimately to make an impact.


An important part of these skills is negotiation skills. Every “transaction” is a negotiation. Whether we buy something on eBay, agree on where to do vacation, how much of our work we have to spend on a certain project, or where we go for lunch with our colleagues. When we want to convince others, we most often also have to negotiate with them.


And as I want to improve my “sales skills”, I also set myself goals to improve my negotiation skills. One goal is to negotiate whenever I’ve got the chance to do it.


Now, back to our story. Even though I was happy with the price of the washing machine, I forced myself to negotiate. For me, there’s no excuse once I set myself a particular goal - in this case, to improve my negotiation skills.


So, I simply asked the seller whether she was open to negotiating - in German we say “So, kann man an dem Preis denn noch was machen?”. Honestly, that’s a really bad start to negotiate. I applied not any good negotiation technique here. But my goal wasn’t to “win the negotiation”, i.e. lower the price, but force myself to negotiate in the first place.


To my surprise, the seller was quite open and said yes. I didn’t really make any reaction to the seller’s “yes”. So, there was this awkward silence for a few seconds. Next, the seller proposed a decrease to 230 EUR. Still no reaction from me, I just looked into the seller’s eyes and was slightly smiling. So, a few seconds later, the seller proposed 200 EUR. At this moment, I couldn’t longer hold myself back, had a huge smile on my face, and just said yes, let’s do it.


Negotiating skills are highly underrated. It’s not just about achieving a higher salary or saving money when buying a washing machine, rather almost every time we try to move someone, we enter a negotiation. And negotiations aren’t just about winning but achieving the best outcome for both sites.


In today’s blog article, I will write about why everyone has to learn negotiation skills and what we can do to improve them.


Summary:

  • The more sophisticated our negotiation skills, the better we can influence the outcome of every conversation aimed at reaching an agreement

  • It’s clear that if you’re a great negotiator, you can be better off financially. What’s not so clear for many people is that you can also be better off emotionally

  • A great negotiators knows that the pie of resources isn’t fixed and thus how to increase the value for every party

Practical advice:

  • At its core, negotiation is all about persuasion, i.e. representing your ideas in a way that moves the other parties to agree with you

  • Start viewing every conversation aimed at reaching an agreement as a negotiation

  • Exercise negotiating whenever you can

Life is a series of negotiations


Negotiations are everywhere. We negotiate every day.


If you’re like most people, you think about negotiation and picture yourself talking to the other “side” to gain a financial advantage, e.g. when you buy a used car and negotiate the price.


But most negotiations are subtle and not about money.


Remember the days when your parents told you when you had to be at home, how much you had to clean your room, or what you would eat for dinner.


Negotiation is essential in everyone’s family to maintain peace at home. We all need to compromise with each other to some extent to avoid disagreements at home.


The same goes for (A) work, (B) studying, or (C) hobbies:

(A) How much time do you have to allocate to the project/task you don’t really like?

(B) Who is doing what in this group exercise?

(C) Which route do your biking friends and you take?


Some negotiations aren’t even notable: You and your partner agree to go to your favorite restaurant.


Some negotiations are easy: You negotiate where you sit in the van during a road trip.

Some negotiations are difficult: You negotiate the salary of your new job.


Yet, they all have in common to be conversations aimed at reaching an agreement.


Each of these conversations has multiple potential outcomes, some more favorable than others. Depending on the circumstances incl. the “skills” of the relevant parties, the outcome will be reached.


Benefits of negotiating skills


If we picture life as a series of negotiations, it’s evident why good negotiation skills are beneficial. The more sophisticated our negotiation skills, the better we can influence the outcome of every conversation aimed at reaching an agreement. And it’s not just about winning personally but making the pie larger for everyone.


It’s clear that if you’re a great negotiator, you can be better off financially, e.g. you negotiate a higher job salary, a higher discount on your next car, or a better deal for your vacation trip.

What’s not so clear for many people is that you can also be better off emotionally. The better your negotiation skills, the easier you can achieve what’s best for everyone or for you. For instance, if you often argue with your partner about what to watch on Netflix, better negotiation skills will make you argue less often while achieving what’s better for both of you.


Being better at negotiating allows you to achieve not only better personal outcomes but also outcomes better for everyone. A great negotiator knows that the pie of resources isn’t fixed and thus how to increase the value for every party.


How to improve your negotiation skills


At its core, negotiation is all about persuasion, i.e. representing your ideas in a way that moves the other parties to agree with you. There’re countless techniques to improve negotiation skills. Essentially, though, there’re 2 fundamental principles that will improve your negotiation skills most:


1: Change in perception. Start viewing every conversation aimed at reaching an agreement as a negotiation. Become more aware in your daily life and create a sense of the importance of negotiation skills.


2: Exercise negotiating whenever you can. Once you become more aware of all these negotiations in your daily life, you should make it a habit to negotiate. It’s not about winning or making someone else lose but about proactively steering the conversations towards an outcome that is most beneficial for everyone. That particularly means to stop assuming the pie is fixed and start increasing the value for everyone.

Self-improvement tips based on my learnings. One article per week. No spam ever.

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