Zen Fighter NegotiationZen ain’t just a Bush song. It has also contributed a lot to thinking about business relationships and negotiations. There are two different sides to every business conversation: two halves of a whole. Successful negotiation is about reconciling the differences – chipping away at sides until a single polished viewpoint remains.

The best negotiators in the world are those who respect and understand both sides of the conversation. They realize that the delicate balance of a deal can come crashing down if one side is too forceful, too demanding – or ignobly doesn’t listen to the other side.

The art of persuasion can only help so much if you’re only thinking about yourself and your end of the deal. Like chess players, good negotiators need to be thinking 3 moves ahead of the game by putting themselves in the other player’s shoes. Only by understanding the opposition can they move ahead.

In any business deal, looking at the whole picture allows us to set realistic goals and make better decisions, unlocking the potential of our negotiating power.

Let’s say you were negotiating a salary and compensation package. If you ultimately understand the employer’s stance and your own position, you can leverage your insights to make a responsible counter-offer, project confidence in your conversation, and align your goals with those of the organization.

  • Understanding the employer’s position: Your employer has a bottom line to meet, and a breadth of economic issues that affect every twist and turn of their business. Harsh market conditions have employers spending less and stretching resources. The size and structure of the company also impacts the wiggle room for bargaining (is it a tightly knit non-profit or a publicly traded goliath?) How was the company’s last fiscal quarter? The growth potential? These are some of the questions you need to be asking if you want to understand where your company is coming from – and how much they’re willing to spend.
  • Understand your own position: You should know the standard salary range for your position and make sure you fall somewhere along its spectrum. Your bargaining power is based largely on your own skills and expertise. What can you bring to the table that warrants extra perks from your employer? What’s the price on your competition…candidates and co-workers who might do the same job for less? If you know yourself, then you know what you have to offer. If you know what you have to offer, you know how much you’re worth.

Remember that there are two sides to everything – understanding the dichotomy allows you to boost your negotiating power. When it comes to very personal negotiations, such as salary and various aspects of career, people tend to become very biased. They can’t see the other side of the equation nor think of their own contributions from an outside perspective.

When you are negotiating for a higher salary, better benefits, time off, placement on a valuable project, or a promotion, it is helpful to remember to step back and view both sides. Don’t argue for yourself – argue for truth – the outcome that makes the most sense for everyone. If you elevate your argument above your own personal interests, you will achieve a success negotiation and the respect of everyone involved.



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