One of the most intimidating experiences for many people, in work and in daily life, is a negotiation. Even the promise of getting what we want isn’t enough to get us past the fear of beginning the negotiation, and if the other party starts, we may tend to freeze up completely.
Seasoned negotiation and contracts expert Eldonna Lewis-Fernandez says that breaking through the fear into successful negotiations is within reach. “Even when faced with the most daunting of deals, regarding the act of negotiation as a ‘game’ may alleviate the apprehension and give you the confidence to make power plays that will ultimately facilitate your desired result,” notes Lewis-Fernandez, author of “Think Like a Negotiator.“ “Unlike strategy games like chess, however, the most effective deals are a win-win proposition for all parties rather than a winner-loser result.” Lewis-Fernandez shared more of her observations of successful negotiators in the workplace with IT Business Edge’s Kachina Shaw.
Shaw: Why is negotiation so intimidating for so many of us, especially in the workplace, even when we think we are on the right side of a conversation or a solution?
Lewis-Fernandez: For those who are inexperienced or slightly experienced at negotiation, it appears very daunting. Negotiation requires a level of confidence and, like anything, if there is inexperience or lack of success in negotiation, our confidence can be affected. In the workplace, negotiation may be perceived as an all-or-nothing deal. That makes the stakes appear too high for many and causes an avoidance of negotiation due to the perceived high stakes – high cost activity.
Shaw: Do the steps toward a successful negotiation change at all if you are either the superior or the subordinate of the person on the other side of the table, even subtly?
Lewis-Fernandez: This would depend on the type of environment you are working in. If it’s a rank type hierarchy, such as the military, a subordinate would need to be much more careful than in an environment where the structure is more loosely organized. However, in either type of organization, if there is a good working relationship that has been built over time and the superior listens to the voice of the subordinates, that would imply that all people within the organization have power and can use that power to affect positive change. Again, confidence and ability play into the equation, no matter where in the hierarchy you fall.
Shaw: Have you found that either men or women are more successful or skilled negotiators, from your years of experience and observation? If so, what leads to those strengths?
Lewis-Fernandez: Direct communication is the language of business and, in my experience, many men are more confident negotiators than women because of this fact. Most women are not typically direct communicators but can learn to communicate in this manner. Negotiation is a skill anyone can learn and master. It’s a game, and when the mindset of thinking like a negotiator is applied and we approach negotiation as a game, it makes it less stressful and the ability to negotiate improves because our mindset has improved.
You'll also find more advice, on negotiating for a raise in salary, in the post "How to Get over the Fear of Negotiating for a Raise."
Veteran negotiation and contracts expert Eldonna Lewis-Fernandez, author of “Think Like a Negotiator,” has over 30 years of experience crafting killer deals both stateside and internationally, many in excess of $100 million. She’s currently the CEO of Dynamic Vision International—a specialized consulting and training firm that helps individuals hone negotiation skills—as well as a nationally regarded keynote speaker, session leader and panelist on the Art of Negotiation. Eldonna may be reached online at www.ThinkLikeANegotiator.com.