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Ten Tips for Successful Negotiating

Ed Brodow

The ability to negotiate successfully is crucial for survival in today's changing business world. Negotiation is fun if you know what you're doing. So for all you busy execs, here are Ed Brodow's Ten Tips for Successful Negotiating:

1. Develop "negotiation consciousness." Successful negotiators are assertive and challenge everything. They know that everything is negotiable.

"Challenge" means not taking things at face value. It means thinking for yourself. You must be able to make up your own mind, as opposed to believing everything you are told. On a practical level, this means you have the right to question the asking price of that new car. It also means you have an obligation to question everything you read in the newspaper or hear on CNN. You cannot negotiate unless you are willing to challenge the validity of the opposing position.

Being assertive means asking for what you want and refusing to take "no" for an answer. Practice expressing your feelings without anxiety or anger. Let people know what you want in a non-threatening way. Practice 'I' statements. For example, instead of saying, "You shouldn't do that," try substituting, "I don't feel comfortable when you do that."

Note that there is a difference between being assertive and being aggressive. You are assertive when you take care of your own interests while maintaining respect for the interests of others. When you see to your own interests with a lack of regard for other people's interests, you are aggressive. Being assertive is part of negotiation consciousness.

2. Become a good listener. Negotiators are detectives. They ask probing questions and then shut up. The other negotiator will tell you everything you need to know - all you have to do is listen.

Many conflicts can be resolved easily if we learn how to listen. The catch is that listening is the forgotten art. We are so busy making sure that people hear what we have to say that we forget to listen.

You can become an effective listener by allowing the other person to do most of the talking. Follow the 70/30 Rule -- listen 70 percent of the time, and talk only 30 percent of the time. Encourage the other negotiator to talk by asking lots of open-ended questions -- questions that can't be answered with a simple "yes" or "no."

3. Be prepared. The Boy (and Girl) Scouts were right. Gather as much pertinent information prior to the negotiation. What are their needs? What pressures do they feel? What options do they have? Doing your homework is vital to successful negotiation.

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