About two weeks ago our CEO Deborah Sweeney was featured over at Mike Michalowicz’s great blog with her tip on negotiation tactics. The actual topic was ‘How to Win a Negotiation’ and Deb had 500 characters to distill her philosophy regarding negotiation into an easily digestible blurb. We liked the topic and all of the tips provided so much that we decided to take negotiation topic (sorry Mike!) and give Deborah a chance to expand on her quick little answer through a longer post. Plus it’s her blog, so she can use as many characters as she wants.

Can’t we all just get along?

So we don’t have to re-print the answer, you can either go read all of the responses over at Mike’s blog (which you should, because it really is a useful site and psst, Deborah’s tip is number 28), or you can settle for the quick and dirty version – when approaching a negotiation, be honest, be prepared, and be willing to compromise.

There is an old saying that honesty begets honesty. If you’re honest with someone, they’ll be honest back because lying takes a lot of effort and causes too much additional stress. A negotiation shouldn’t be spent trying to dissect the truth out of the mounds and mounds of… less than truthful material being spewed from the mouths of the negotiators. Know what you want to take away from a negotiation, and be honest about it. All manipulation will get you is a room full of suspicious people and suspicious people don’t like to compromise.

Ah, preparation. So simple, and yet so few people actually take the time to adequately prepare themselves before walking up to a negotiation table. A quick list on which you scrawled the main things that you want does not count as preparing yourself for a negotiation. You want as much information as possible about every single variable that is going to be in the room. The person you’re talking to, the subject matter being covered, how what is being negotiated can influence either party – take the time to find the facts. Not only will doing this help you know exactly what you want, but if you do end up having to argue for or against something, you’ll have strong reasons to back up your opinion.

One of the problems with Mike’s choice of a title was that it seemed to indicate that negotiations should have a winner and a loser. Sometimes one party may leave the room feeling like the loser (especially if they didn’t prepare or were dishonest, as we just went over in the above topics) but negotiations can, and should, be a positive experience for both parties. Why would anyone negotiate anything if they felt like they would end up losing out? Don’t act like a spoiled kid, throwing a tantrum because you didn’t get everything that you wanted. Know what you want, and be willing to compromise on the details. A negotiation is not a boxing match – you shouldn’t be out for blood. If both parties walk away from the table satisfied, then the negotiators did their job well.

Now learning how to “win at negotiations” is big business for a lot of people. There are ton of books and websites filled with negotiation tactics and tips, and there is undoubtedly some writer out there whose three main tips are to be manipulative, impulsive, and uncompromising. But in a world where people treat other people like they are actual people instead of brick walls protecting a pot of gold, it’s better not to tear down everyone you talk to and burn bridge after bridge. So, if you’re interested in negotiating well AND maintaining relationships, stick with the advice above. It’ll take you far and help you to gain the respect of others with an honest and firm reputation – win win.