6 Habits of Great Negotiators

“Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate.” – John F. Kennedy

If you are reading this, you probably want to get better at negotiating, or you know someone who does. You’ve got lots of company! Asking for what you want and need causes anxiety for many of us.

The good news is that great negotiators aren’t born. They’re made. You can apply their habits to become more comfortable with making the ask, and negotiating successfully. Negotiation can even be fun.

  1. Determine what you want. This fundamental step is easy to skip. You must have in your mind what a successful outcome will be. What you want is not the same as what you might get only if the stars align perfectly or what you’ll settle for. The more specific and real you can get about what you want, the more likely it is that you will achieve it.
  2. Trade your fear for curiosity. Great negotiators probe what is possible. Where other people see obstacles, they see opportunity. They do their homework to find out as many data points, facts and factors around their deal. They are too busy with the work of empathy—knowing everything they can about the hearts and heads of the other side. By prioritizing the gathering of all this new information, they have less brain space for worrying about doing less than their best.
  3. Ask with confidence. One of the greatest things that parents and teachers can do is to show our kids how to speak up and ask confidently for what they need and want. No matter what your age, asking with confidence shows that you don’t mind taking a risk to achieve your goal. A confident ask suffocates fear, which is why fearlessness is the great negotiator’s bread and butter.
  4. Embrace the pause. Silence doesn’t need to be filled! Often there is a pause in negotiations, and with it comes the temptation to keep talking. Great negotiators practice tactical silence and resist the urge to fill the blank spaces.
  5. Give to get. A negotiation is a conversation, an exercise in creativity in which both sides are forming a new way forward together. I truly believe that negotiating doesn’t have to be zero-sum, I win you lose scenario. You need to be thinking of what you can offer to give in order to get to a conclusion that everyone can live with. Great negotiators make it a habit to give to get.
  6. Walk away if needed, especially if you’re stuck. Inevitably, there are times when we find ourselves unable to close the gap inside of a negotiation—where the conversation has stalled and no progress is being made. We have to be perfectly comfortable exiting the conversation as a way to jumpstart negotiations. Yes, it can be a bit jarring to the other person and certainly isn’t my first choice, but it can unlock gridlock. Done calmly and with respect, walking away can actually be an effective tactic to move a negotiation forward.

Your Game Changer Takeaway

Like the best athletes and coaches, great negotiators use consistent practice to stay sharp—especially mentally. Rehearsing reinforces in their minds what works for them. Do you have other habits that help you achieve negotiating success? I would love to hear from you!

Molly Fletcher helps inspire and equip game changers to dream, live and grow fearlessly. A keynote speaker and author, Molly draws on her decades of experiences working with elite athletes and coaches as a sports agent, and applies them to the business world. Her new book, Fearless At Work, is now available. Sign up here to receive our monthly newsletter and subscribe to the Game Changers with Molly Fletcher podcast on iTunes.