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Key points

  • negotiation skills are the skills you need to reach a compromise with other people
  • negotiation involves listening, persuasion, problem solving and planning.

What are negotiation skills?

Negotiation skills are the skills you need to reach a compromise with other people.

A compromise is an arrangement where two people with different goals find a solution that works for both of them.

Why are negotiation skills important?

Negotiation skills are important because you can’t always get what you want, especially at work.

But, you can usually find solutions that everyone agrees with.

Without negotiation skills, you may get an outcome you aren’t happy with, or your relationships with other people may be affected.

How do you develop your negotiation skills?

To develop negotiation skills, you’ll need to develop skills in communication and problem-solving.

When you negotiate you need to be able to:

  • say what you want and need
  • brainstorm potential compromises, solutions and backup plans.

To successfully negotiate, you may need to use the following skills:

  • listening and understanding: this includes hearing and considering the other person’s point of view
  • having a plan: this includes having an idea of what you want and what other things you might want, if you can’t have your first choice
  • persuasion: this means, being able to clearly explain the benefits of your idea or what you would like to happen.

To ensure that your negotiation goals are fair and realistic you should consider:

  • your own needs
  • other peoples’ (or organisations’) needs
  • any relevant constraints such as time and money.

For example, if you’re negotiating a pay increase, it wouldn’t be realistic to ask for a higher salary than your manager. This wouldn’t be fair, and your request would not be accepted.

Instead, asking for a smaller increase is a more realistic option, and it’s more likely to be approved.

The negotiation process

You can negotiate in many ways, including in a face-to-face conversation, in a phone call, or over text or email.

Some basic negotiation steps include:

  • prepare: identify what you want from the situation – including your interests, your ideal situation (the best-case scenario), and what you’re willing to accept if you can’t get your ideal situation
  • communicate: openly share your perspective, aims and/or concerns, and listen to the other person share theirs
  • clarify: if there are any disagreements or misunderstandings, try to reach an understanding. You may need to justify your perspective or allow the other person to justify theirs
  • bargain and problem-solve: undertake a process of give-and-take. This may mean making an offer and/or a series of counteroffers to try to find a solution that works for everyone
  • conclude and implement: once you agree on a solution, you need to formalise it. For example, you might need to update a contract to put the outcome in place.

Case Study

At a previous job, I was kept on the same pay rate for years and was struggling with the costs of living. I knew that it was customary to receive yearly pay increases at other organisations in the same industry, and I researched jobs at the same level as mine to compare the pay rates. I also talked to a union representative for advice. 

I then arranged a meeting with my manager and used my research to explain why I deserved a pay increase. My manager wasn’t able to approve an increase that matched the rate of similar jobs at other organisations, but they were able to give me a small increase. While the outcome wasn’t exactly what I wanted, it was better than not getting any increase – at least until I could get a different job!

Real Life Story

Story description

Sage works 8 hours in an office every Friday. Most of their co-workers work from 9am to 5pm with a half hour break. Sage has a child who needs to be picked up from childcare at 3:30pm on Fridays. 

Sage’s employer still needs them to work 8 hours on Fridays, so they negotiate and reach an agreement where Sage will work from 7am to 3pm on Fridays. This means that both the employer and Sage have their needs respected and accommodated for.