Learning to negotiate

I often wish I were a better negotiator.

Opportunities to negotiate come up often. Classic ones are negotiating a salary, car price, hospital bill, and compensation for a cancelled flight. But there are also the more frequent, mundane ones like agreeing where to eat, who will wash the dishes, when to set project deadlines at work.

We’re trained to think negotiations require lawyers sitting around a boardroom table, but negotiations are not so dramatic. They’re also not simply about “power”, “win win”, or “give and take”. Those are caricatures of what makes a good negotiation.

As important as good negotiation skills are, it’s disappointing that most people I know– me included– never took a class on negotiation. The exceptions are psychology majors who spent maybe a day on the subject and business school friends who enrolled in some class like Power and Influence.

After checking out a few books on negotiation this past year, I’m surprised how much can be discovered in these books, yet how hard it is to improve negotiation skills through practice. You have to practice negotiating with real people to get better at it. Only by putting yourself in negotiation situations can you “level up”. Ironically, part of good negotiation skills is recognizing a negotiation opportunity when it comes up.

If you’re looking for resources to learn more about negotiation skills, I recommend the following:

Board games like Settlers of Catan offer great opportunities to put negotiation skills to practice.

May 2018