Negotiation can be a powerful tool for getting what you want, whether that’s a lower price on a new car or a better benefits package for your job. Negotiation is also something that we do every day, from finding your place in a queue to navigating relationships with friends, colleagues, your boss and all your personal relationships. It’s one thing to be able to negotiate in your own language but how can you improve your negotiation skills in English too?
Always aim high at the start
Most negotiations tend to descend after the opening offers so it’s always a good idea to start slightly higher than you really need. For example, if you’re negotiating a pay rise, asking for £30,000 at the start will give you more scope to achieve an end result of £25,000 than if you start at the lower figure. A high opening figure will also make any number below it seem much more reasonable.
Avoid closed questions
If you’re asking questions that require just a “yes” or a “no” response then you’re not going to learn much about who you’re negotiating with. Open questions always provide more information about the person you’re talking to, from how far they are willing to go in the negotiation process to what brought them there in the first place.
Listen actively and use silence well
When you ask an open question make sure you really hear the response. For many of us, when the other person is speaking it’s an opportunity to start putting together whatever we want to talk about next. Stay in the present moment and listen to what’s being said if you want to negotiate more successfully. You’ll get a much clearer idea of where the other person is and be able to read between the lines in terms of what is implied in their speech too. Silence is also an incredibly powerful tool - many people will rush to fill this with words and even capitulate rather than let a silence continue. If you’re negotiating in English and it’s not your first language, silence can also provide the opportunity to gather your thoughts.
Learn some useful negotiation phrases
When you’re prepared with the right language it can feel a lot easier to respond in negotiations. For example:
- “I’d like to make a suggestion that will benefit us all” - if you feel like you have a win-win solution.
- “I’m prepared to..” if you’re ready to make a concession.
- “Provided you do..[this]..I’m happy to do [that].” - if you feel there is compromise required on both sides.
- “No, I’m sorry that’s out of the question/unacceptable” - if you know you have reached your limit.
- “I can go along with that” - if you’re willing to accept what you’ve been offered.
- “It’s been a pleasure doing business with you” - when you’re ready to close the conversation.
Improving your negotiation skills in English takes practice but it’s worth the effort because it will give you the confidence, communication tools and insight to achieve more successful outcomes all round.