Regardless of your level of experience or industry, negotiation skills are an absolute must. Think about it: You’re always negotiating in some way or another, whether you’re asking for a raise or trying to align with a coworker over a project.
“Being a powerful negotiator matters when you are trying to grow and develop your career because you may not always like your first offer,” says Kristyn Oleskewycz, director/headhunter at Recruit Action Inc.
“As a strong negotiator, it is important to know your audience. Whether you are speaking with a client about negotiating a fee for your services or you are a candidate looking to negotiate your salary, the approach remains the same.”
So it’s a good idea to continuously aim to improve your negotiation skills in general instead of waiting for a specific situation to arise. And learning from the habits of the best negotiators can fast-track your progress.
Below are seven things the most powerful negotiators do differently. While they make the art of negotiation look easy, they leave nothing to chance.
Take notes and you’ll soon have the ability to nail any strategic career discussion.
They don’t fight
Have you ever seen FBI negotiators in action on TV? Even though their opponents are dangerous criminals, they never treat conversations like fights. And there are reasons for that.
“Powerful negotiators know their worth but also know that the negotiation process is not a fight. You do not want to go into a negotiation with a passive-aggressive attitude or a negative mindset if questions are asked or clarifications are needed,” says Oleskewycz.
Instead, think of yourself and the other party as being on the same team, brainstorming solutions to get to a favorable outcome for everyone involved.
They are flexible and fair
“Negotiation means there is room for a respectful back and forth discussion before reaching a compromise,” says Oleskewycz.
According to her, you must not be afraid to ask for what you want, but you also want to remain realistic about your wants and needs. “Be optimistic but also realistic – make sure to have key points backed up for what you are asking for,” she says.
The greatest negotiators understand the difference between being unreasonable and not selling themselves short. If you start doing the same and aim to stay flexible and fair, you’ll soon be impressed at what you end up getting.
They do their research
Oleskewycz says the best negotiators on the job market anticipate questions that might come up around their experience and expertise. And they always do their research:
“Powerful negotiators do not make assumptions – they do their research because it is important to know what the market is offering as well as information on who they will be negotiating with.”
And it’s not always about salary. “You need to know what the market is offering for similar roles to be able to successfully negotiate the areas that are most important to you. It isn’t always about salary but the total package including benefits, vacation, growth opportunities, etc.”
They don’t take things personally
If you want to be a truly outstanding negotiator, you must be comfortable walking away and accepting that some conversations will be dead-ends.
“Powerful negotiators know that a negotiation may not always lead to the result expected and that’s okay – it isn’t personal,” says Oleskewycz. “They avoid taking it personally if the outcome doesn’t meet their expectations because they know things don’t always end up the way they want them to be. It’s important to be able to learn from the experience and move on.”
They listen before responding
Master negotiators listen almost more than they speak. “One of the main underrated habits is to listen first and react later. It’s important to hear what the other party has to say before responding,” says Oleskewycz.
Why? Not only does listening set the tone for a trust-based conversation where the other party will feel heard and respected and be more likely to want to compromise, but it also allows you to gather precious insights about what a win-win would look like.
They stay positive
No need to be ruthless and stone-faced to be a good negotiator. In fact, a joyful attitude can go a long way, says Oleskewycz. “Another underrated habit is going into negotiation with a positive attitude. Happiness can be felt in a conversation and cheerfulness is contagious.”
Set the intention of being pleasant and bringing a positive tone to the negotiation conversation. You’ll be amazed at what a difference it can make.
They take their time
Powerful negotiators are flexible, but they never budge when it comes to time. They take the time to analyze what’s on offer and how they want to approach the matter and never let anyone rush them. They know that feeling pressured to go faster won’t serve their desired outcome.
“Powerful negotiators take their time – they don’t try to rush the negotiation process because it can lead to taking bad deals or compromising too much.”