Negotiation is often unpleasant but necessary, in business, in the workplace, and in life. Some of us dislike negotiation so much we avoid it whenever we can.
When it comes to salary negotiations, to take just one example, a Salary.com survey  found one-fifth of all workers don’t negotiate salary at all when given a job offer. Nearly half of those surveyed – 48 percent – said they always get nervous when it comes to salary negotiations, and a further 39 percent sometimes do. When asked why, 18 percent said they think negotiation is inherently unpleasant.
But because negotiation is necessary, it’s important to work to change those feelings of angst and learn to negotiate in a way that makes both you and your clients feel good.
Why is Negotiation So Hard?
Why do people tend to find negotiation so difficult in the first place? Part of the reason is because it can be uncomfortable to ask for what you want. Imposter syndrome can make you feel like you don’t deserve the success you have, and if you do anything to call attention to yourself – like asking for a raise – everyone will notice that you somehow snuck into your position and don’t belong there at all.
It’s also a skill that’s not really taught, and indeed includes a combination of skills  that take time to learn, such as:
- the ability to read other people
- listening skills
- problem-solving skills
- emotional control
- communication skills
Another problem is that we just don’t trust each other. Research by professor Karen Walch has found that, while 40 percent of people think of themselves as trustworthy in a negotiation, most people think the other party in the negotiation is only out to win. Starting out from a place of mistrust can make a lot of negotiations go south.
Why is Negotiation a Key Skill?
Negotiation comes in handy in a lot of areas of life, not just when you’re starting a new job or asking for a raise. You will negotiate with coworkers when you work on projects together, with your boss for vacation time, with clients and potential clients on specs, deadlines and project costs, among other things.
Being able to negotiate well is a key to getting what you want in a lot of situations. Learning this skill can help you gain confidence in other areas of business and life, too, because you know that you will be comfortable asking for what you need and can make your clients or business associates feel good about negotiating with you.
How to Improve Your Negotiating Skills
One aspect of better negotiation has to do with mindset. If you tend to go into negotiations thinking the other person is just out to beat you (or that you have to be in it to win it), you will be a lot more combative and less flexible, which could make the whole deal go wrong.
Negotiation is communication and collaboration. If you can think about negotiating as a relationship instead of as people on different sides, one of whom will “win” and one will “lose,” you’ll be starting in a much better place. It might also help to think of negotiating as asking, and that you don’t have to get everything you want in order for the process to have been a success.
When it comes to negotiating in business or on behalf of your business, it may also help to think of yourself as a member and representative of a team. What you’re asking is not just for you; it will benefit everyone in the company (this also helps if asking for something makes you feel greedy).
It’s also important to understand the culture of your company when it comes to negotiation. When you’re asking for a raise it’s helpful to know how others have approached the situation. And if you are negotiating with someone else on behalf of your company, it’s good to know if people who have been in your position before have tended to be hard-driving or more laid-back.
To find these things out you’ll have to ask, and someone else in the company who may be better at negotiating could become a mentor or coach for you as you refine your style and gain confidence.
Make sure you plan ahead for meetings, do as much research as you can, and go in with an open mind but also a clear idea of what your goals are and you’ll be able to negotiate more strongly and have happier clients, too.
|||^||Salary.com: Most People Don’t Negotiate Due to Fear & Lack of Skills|
|||^||Chron: Top Ten Effective Negotiation Skills|
|||^||Forbes: Why Negotiators Still Aren’t ‘Getting To Yes|