Communication in Negotiation

Negotiation is an exercise in communication. All behaviors in negotiation send a message. Everything we do, or don’t do, influences the Other Party. This includes conversations and silence. While negotiators may stop talking, they don’t stop behaving. Your behavior sends signals which influence the Other Party.

Verbal and non-verbal communication

While verbal communication is an efficient way of conveying a message, non-verbal cues are used to indicate emotions and add meaning.

Skilled negotiators develop techniques in observation and listening so they can analyze the total communication package. Observing and interpreting non-verbals from the Other Party helps you understand their hidden feelings. Observe what is said and how it was said and listen to what was not communicated. All may contain hidden cues about what motivates the Other Party.

Observe and analyze body language

Research suggests that body language accounts for more than 50% of the communication message. During face-to-face negotiations (in person or by video conferencing), skilled negotiators analyze body language and deliberately use their own body language to their advantage. Consider this when negotiating via phone or email, without these cues, it is more difficult to understand the Other Party’s key needs and how they manage their decision-making.

Practice active listening and maintain content awareness

The skilled negotiator appreciates that verbal communication includes listening as well as talking. Good listening is regarded as the most critical of our negotiating skills. Negotiators appreciate that it is more difficult to listen than to speak and real listening requires constant practice.

When negotiating, we make decisions based on what we hear, as well as what we observe. Practice the following to maintain content awareness:

  • Ask yourself “What is it the Other Party wants me to do, think or believe?”
  • Make contrasts and comparisons, validate the evidence
  • Mentally repeat the Other Party’s key words or phrases
  • Read between the lines – understand what is not being said

A question has more influencing power than a statement

Carefully framed questions will keep you in control of the negotiation. The right questions can elicit facts, validate assumptions and uncover the Other Party’s needs. Skilful questioning can be used tactically to direct the course of the negotiation to your preferred outcome.

When you prepare for your negotiation, consider the influence your questions may have on the Other Party and what their purpose is in your negotiation strategy.

Agree signals for internal team control

Negotiation teams need to agree on some sort of covert signals to help manage the negotiation process. The team lead needs to be able to pass the discussion to team members and then later regain control of the interaction. The lead negotiators role should remain as such, unless it is specifically agreed for a change of roles.

When signals have been agreed, ensure each team member is clear on the meaning, it helps if this is rehearsed before the event.

Structure of language for cooperation

Style flexibility demands that we intentionally act competitively or cooperatively. The language you use is an important component in implementing your chosen style. Style choice must be carefully managed so you purposefully implement your style rather than react to the Other Party, revealing your true feelings. Aggressive verbal slanging matches between negotiators create a negative emotional climate and are usually detrimental to the outcome you seek.

Do you need to engage a mediator?

With the increased use of alternative dispute resolution procedures, negotiators now find themselves more often in situations where they are being called on to act as mediators. Interventions by mediators influence the behavior of the negotiators, the negotiation climate and the ultimate outcome of the negotiation.

Often the presence of a mediator can be sufficient to facilitate agreement. This may be due to the influence the third party has. The main task of the mediator is to assist the parties to find common ground through initiating active process interventions, both formally and informally.

To assist with the outcomes you want, be sure to prepare for your negotiation, practice your open questioning and active listening techniques. ENS International have the framework and tools to assist in developing your team’s skills. For more information on our virtual offering and workshops click here.

About ENSI

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ENS International (ENSI) provides negotiation consulting and training services helping people and organizations think and act differently to achieve more. 

Negotiators gain the edge using proven ENSI influencing processes incorporating commercial psychology with a deep understanding of human behaviour. ENSI delivers through Consulting Services and In-House or Open Course training. 

With over 60 Practitioners working within 75 countries we have a depth of experience across a diverse range of sectors.

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