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Creating Successful Leaders

When you hear the word “negotiation,” it’s easy to think of those painfully long meetings between two or more stubborn parties, where everyone walks away unhappy. Take recent events in Congress, for instance. No matter what side you fall on the political spectrum, I think we can all agree that the seemingly endless battles over legislation get frustrating, to say the least.

But Stuart Diamond, Wharton Business School professor and author, thinks that negotiation unfairly gets a bad rap, yet is a crucial tool to achieving success in our daily lives. “It’s just a conversation,” he points out. “You don’t have to give anything up by just talking to someone.”

And that’s just it. Negotiation doesn’t have to mean drawn out, exhausting exchanges. It can be as simple and pleasant as a chat with a server at a restaurant, or a polite conversation with a co-worker. In his book, Getting More, Diamond provides some basic ways to master negotiation skills.

1. Keep Your Goal at the Front of Your Mind. It’s easy to forget this when you’re in the middle of negotiation, as many tend to get distracted by emotional impulse. Yet staying close to your goals during negotiation makes things easier for both parties. You’ll be clear-headed and better able to express yourself with clarity and efficiency.

2. Reverse Roles. “You can’t persuade people of anything unless you know the pictures in their heads: their perceptions, sensibilities, needs, how they make commitments, whether they are trustworthy.” You need to have at least some idea of who the other person is. Minimize your own needs and pretend that you’re the least important person in the room. This shows that you are in tune with other people’s needs, and willing to make compromises.

3. Be Constructive, Not Manipulative. “Don’t deceive people.” Building trust is key. You might not get everything you want right away, but being open and honest while negotiating cultivates long-term relationships that yield greater results. If you cut corners, lie or hide your cards, the other party will begin to be suspicious (and rightly so), which is a big problem for good negotiation.

Diamond also makes it clear that negotiation is a flexible, situational process, and that good negotiators are those who know how to utilize their personal strengths to achieve their goals. We shouldn’t act like someone else, for instance, because “people will detect it and you will lose your credibility.” He sees good negotiation skills as tools to help you “learn how to be yourself better.”

Try these ideas out and see what works for you. Become aware of what types of negotiations take place in your standard day, and where. Keep a mental log of how you tend to handle these, and use Diamond’s ideas as reference. See where you could improve, implement a plan, and take action. Good luck!

Stuart Diamond, Getting More: How You Can Negotiate to Achieve Your Goals in the Real World (New York: Three Rivers Press, 2010), 6, 7, 19.

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