Why It’s Important to Learn Negotiation Skills

One of the best books I have read recently is “Never split the difference” from Chris Voss. This book is not only about negotiation, but also about the basic human communication and interactions. This knowledge can be highly applicable for the professional and personal relationships, and everybody can benefit from it.

“Negotiation serves two distinct, vital life functions—information gathering and behavior influencing—and includes almost any interaction where each party wants something from the other side. Your career, your finances, your reputation, your love life, even the fate of your kids—at some point all of these hinge on your ability to negotiate.”

In my Learning & Development role, I need to collaborate / negotiate with different actors & balance the requirements from many different stakeholders inside the company: employees, managers, senior management, executive committee, and other HR roles. Outside the company, I also need to manage relationships and negotiate with external providers and vendors, such as public actors which can finance our learning and development actions. 

Traditionally negotiation skill is much needed for sales, business & purchasing, but I really think that this skill can bring much benefit also to HR roles.

“Negotiation as you’ll learn it here is nothing more than communication with results. Getting what you want out of life is all about getting what you want from—and with—other people.”

If I look around my role, missions, and activities I see the need for developing negotiation & communication skills everywhere.

Here are some lessons I have learnt from the book for a stronger L&D leadership role in a company:

1/ Always let the other side talk first and listen to learn about what is the other side point of view

“People who view negotiation as a battle of arguments become overwhelmed by the voices in their head. Negotiation is not an act of battle; it’s a process of discovery. The goal is to uncover as much information as possible.”

We think that we have more power and control over the situation when we talk, but the opposite is often true. By listening to other people, we learn more about their views, needs, beliefs, values, and fears.

This can help us find the way to address them.

2/ Pay attention to emotions and address them as soon as possible

“But think about that: How can you separate people from the problem when their emotions are the problem? That’s why, instead of denying or ignoring emotions, good negotiators identify and influence them.”

Every day I learn more about the importance of emotions and the impact they have on our decision making. They can be barrier to progress in a relationship or negotiation and block it.  But if we manage to address them, this can give us the entrance, the opening, and the positive energy we are looking for to progress.

Criss Voss recommends validating someone’s emotion by acknowledging it:

● It seems like … ​                       ​  

● It sounds like … ​                       ​

 ● It looks like …  ​                       ​  

Even if we have incorrectly identified the emotion, we invite the other person to correct it and to label the emotion more accurately.

3/ Ask calibrated questions to guide the counterpart towards the objective you want to achieve

We read and hear more and more how important is to ask good questions.  Asking well timed questions is like opening new doors in a relationship by showing interest in another party. Moreover, it gives us opportunity to be more relevant in our response and interaction and get the most of it.

My favorite questions are:

  • What about this is important to you?
  • How I can help to make this better for us?
  • How would you like to proceed?
  • What is that brought us into this situation?
  • What is objective?  What are we trying to accomplish here?
  • How am I supposed to do that?
  • How can we solve this problem?

To conclude:

If we want to establish the good relationship and influence others, we need first to understand them. This we can do best by listening to learn about their views, emotions, and by asking calibrated questions to discover specific information that can be helpful for us.

Of course, to do this, we need first to manage our need to be understood and heard. We need to manage our own emotions. But this is another story…



Après différentes expériences dans l'enseignement en musique, la recherche scientifique en pédagogie, le conseil en formation, la conception et le développement des projets de formation en ligne (digital learning), je travaille aujourd'hui sur la formation et le développement professionnel des talents (Learning & Development). Formablog est un outil d'apprentissage ainsi qu'un moyen de partager et échanger mes expériences avec les autres. Je suis une serbe devenue aussi française, qui travaille et lit beaucoup en anglais. Ce blog est une mélange de tout ça :-)

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