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Negotiation is more than just a skill, but a method in which people settle differences. Whether you’re writing a business proposal for a potential client or convincing the shop owner to sell you a bunch of potatoes at a cheaper price, you are negotiating. Negotiating doesn’t have to involve “big decisions”, it can be an activity as mundane as having to decide whose turn it is to wash the dishes – we all need to compromise to have peace at home.
What is negotiation?
Negotiation is when two or more people try to find an acceptable solution to a shared problem as defined by MasterClass.com (which is a streaming platform that makes it possible for anyone to watch or listen to hundreds of video lessons taught by 100+ of the world’s best). If two or more people have differing opinions about a situation, then the end goal of negotiation is to always reach a compromise whilst avoiding an argument. Like any disagreement, each person aims to reach an outcome that best favours them or the organization they represent. However, when you negotiate, while the aim is to have a favourable outcome, you need to seek fairness and mutual benefit for the success of the relationship.
You have probably always used negotiation skills, but you just weren’t aware that you were using them. For instance, growing up when you’d ask your parents to buy you a gadget or an expensive shoe, you would probably negotiate by promising to pass with better marks for the next school term in trade for a new thing that you want. That is negotiation!
Different kinds of negotiations are used in different situations. The preparation and process of negotiation will be different depending on the context and the nature of the issue. For example lobola negotiations, domestic relationships, job applications, the legal system, government and international affairs, policy change, etc.
Why is negotiation important?
Negotiation is essential everywhere in life. It is not only the workplace where negotiation is important but also in our daily life. We all must try our level best to adopt negotiation skills to avoid misunderstandings and lead a peaceful and stress-free life.
Most importantly, if you feel strongly about deserving better in a specific area or a second chance, then negotiating with the next party will be important. As you grow older, you quickly realise that life is often about fighting for what you want and central to that is the ability to negotiate for yourself.
Stages of Negotiation:
When you are entering into any kind of negotiation, stages help make the negotiation process easier. While this structured approach is advisable but it may not work for all situations. If you’re trying to negotiate with a lecturer at varsity on your marks, you might use a less rigorous process of negotiation unlike when you’re trying to negotiate a salary at work.
- Clarification of goals
- Negotiate towards a win-win outcome
This stage involves being sure of all your facts. You have to know the pros and cons of your argument and how to mitigate any retaliation. If you’re a student negotiating with your university on issues related to marks, student records, finances – you must do background checks on university policies, committees that you can appeal to, student bodies that can assist, concessions that are allowed etc. This way, you know exactly what is allowed and not allowed. Secondly being prepared avoids time-consuming discussions on “rules” and unnecessary conflict.
The discussion stage is where everyone states their argument and puts forward their case. Integral to this stage is listening and questioning but listening will be the most important skill otherwise it will be hard to reach a negotiation. This can either be verbal, email or a letter. It will depend on the gravity of the situation or the comfortability of the parties.
Clarification of goals
This stage is self-explanatory because this is the stage of the discussion where everyone clarifies their interests, goals and statements. This is to avoid any misunderstandings which may cause barriers to reaching a favorable outcome.
Negotiate towards a win-win argument
This stage aims to reach a win-win, this is basically where both sides “win” the argument or at least feel their case has been taken into consideration. Alternative strategies may also be suggested at this point.
At this stage, an agreement can be reached once everyone’s points have been heard and considered. The agreements need to very clear so that everyone knows what has been decided.
Once the parties agree to a solution, there needs to be a way forward on how the agreement will be implemented.