School has taught us many skills, but there is something that it did not teach you, and that is how to negotiate. Yet this skill is arguably the most useful skill to learn. You need it when you are trying to get a favour from a friend, or convincing your parents that they should increase your pocket money, or persuading your teacher to extend your homework dateline (never thought you can do that, did you?)

So here are some tips that will hopefully save you a lot of trial and error when it comes to successful negotiation.

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1. Know that sometimes, it is ok to negotiate

Relationships are important. But do not become a doormat for people to walk all over. If you know that there is something you really want but is denied you, negotiate. It is okay to be assertive and protect your rights while maintaining respect for the interests of others.

2. Do not be desperate

Do not cave in to the other side’s demand simply to make a deal. Instead, know your bottom line and once that line has been crossed, you be the one to call off the deal.

I repeat, do not be desperate. If you are desperate, the other negotiator will be able to sense your desperation from miles away. And this becomes a bargaining chip for him/her to use. 

“Oh, I think I want this condition fulfilled… you can’t? Ok, no deal.”

Do not cave in to the other side’s demand simply to make a deal. Instead, know your bottom line and once that line has been crossed, you be the one to call off the deal.

3. Shut up and listen

Find out why the person is saying “no” to your request. Find out how firm his/ her “no” is. Find out the circumstances that will make him/her budge. All these can only be done if you listen actively and pick up clues from your conversation. Then follow your leads and ask that person more questions to probe.

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For instance, your parents do not allow you to stay out until 12 because you are a girl. Know what they are concerned about. Uncover the assumptions they are making. Do they assume you will be going out with some boys? Do they assume you will be going to shady places? What if you tell them that it is an all-girls sleepover at girl A’s house? And your mother happens to know girl A’s mother. What if the sleepover is going to involve some studying too?

Don’t just sulk when they say no to your request. Listen and communicate. Ask a lot of open ended questions. And your efforts will most likely pay off (98 and ¾ percent guaranteed).

4. Find out how you can benefit the other person

Negotiation, different from begging, is about give and take. Always give something away in order to get something in return. The thing you give out need not be money. It can be goodwill, your expertise, your time etc.

For instance, you can volunteer to do the household chores in exchange for more pocket money.

It is also possible to explore how you can meet the other person’s needs without necessarily agreeing to his/her position.

For instance, your mother does not want you to go out with your friends because your exams are coming. This is her position. But what is her need? Her need is for you to do well in school. So what you can do is to study in advance and by the time the outing comes, you have already finished studying for your exams. There is now no reason for your mother not to let you go out.

Negotiation is a skill that you will really need when you go out to work and your parents and teachers are no longer there to ensure that your interests are met. At that time, you will have to do the fighting yourself. So start honing your negotiation skills today. The earlier you start, the more prepared you will be when the situation calls for it.