Effective negotiation is difficult – very difficult. If you think it is easy then you are probably doing it wrong. Indeed we know that many studies show that most people are actually ineffective negotiators and fall short of their potential.
Negotiation is a highly complex human activity that involves a dynamic interpersonal process that is a fundamental method of social decision-making and an important element in business, management, law and everyday life.
Although it is now widely recognised that negotiation is a vital management, leadership and problem solving skill, it is perhaps curious that many employees and managers have actually received little or no formal training or education in negotiating and indeed fail to prioritise taking formal steps to improve their negotiation effectiveness.
This raises an important question – can negotiating performance actually be improved through training? A number of studies have shown that workplace experience alone is largely ineffective at improving negotiation effectiveness but also importantly that appropriate negotiation training can improve negotiation effectiveness.
So what are the main barriers to taking the step to improve negotiation effectiveness?
- Many people think that individuals are either born naturally good at negotiation or they are not. This has been shown to be untrue – what we know is that negotiators who are naturally gifted at effective negotiation behaviour are actually very rare and most people improve their ability by learning to be structured and strategic about the process.
- One of the most common assumptions is the perception that negotiations are ‘zero-sum’ meaning whatever one party gains the other looses. In reality most negotiations are ‘variable–sum’, meaning there is opportunity to create more value for each party given engagement in the right kind of behaviour.
- Many people believe that experience alone can improve negotiation performance and therefore it is matter of exposure that only comes with time. However, there is strong evidence to show that in the absence of analytical feedback it is extremely difficult to improve performance through experience alone.
- There is also a strong perception that good negotiators rely on the use of high-risk strategies such as bluffs and ‘take it or leave it’ types of behaviour which many people don’t necessarily feel comfortable adopting. In reality highly effective negotiators are very good at evaluating strategic risk and rarely rely on such high-risk strategies and instead learn how to make good decisions during the uncertainty of negotiation.
- Finally, many negotiators feel they should rely on a ‘gut feeling’ about how they should negotiate in a give situation and adopt highly reactive strategies. In reality effective negotiation involves deliberate thought and strategic preparation with negotiators adopting proactive strategies rather than reactive ones.
“I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.” ― Maya Angelou