I’ve been teaching people to strengthen their negotiation skills for over a quarter century. Becoming a better negotiator brings significant rewards in our modern lives. Negotiation really matters in the pursuit of better outcomes.
It would be fair to ask, though, what exactly are we talking about. What is this thing that I am teaching folks to be better at? It seems that the word “negotiation” usually conjures up a specific and very limited notion. For most people, it refers only to a scene involving several people sitting around a table performing a particular dance that has been distinctly labeled. In many instances, if someone has not defined the interaction as a “negotiation,” the people involved do not see it as such.
A definition of the process is clearly called for. Here is one formulated by Professor Richard Shell and widely used at Wharton:
Negotiation is an interactive communication process that may take place whenever you want something from somebody else or they want something from you.
One of the first things students notice about this definition is its extraordinary breadth. It lacks the limitations most people have subconsciously accepted; that only formalized bargaining sessions are real negotiations. That idea just goes out the window. To the contrary, the range of things in our world that fall under this designation is astonishing. World leaders seeking accord meet this definition of negotiation but so do roommates squabbling about emptying the sink. Business leaders negotiate over terms, but so do teenagers on a date. From a newborn’s first cry to a marriage proposal to a dying man’s last wish, so much of what we do on this earth can fit within this broad description.
Accepting this proposition, brought to you by top professors and scholars, that we are all negotiating almost all the time, will open the door to a world of new opportunities. How much do you stand to gain by improving your negotiation skills? Do you negotiate a hundred times each year; or perhaps a thousand? Maybe more? Are the stakes high in all your negotiations? Hardly, they range from tiny to immense. But very good negotiators get a bit more on the “little ones” and a tremendous amount more on the “big ones.”
How much is there to gain by becoming even a slightly better negotiator? Imagine for a moment some sort of magical machine that could measure the outcome of every negotiation in your entire lifetime. Now imagine that, through study and practice, we could improve those results by 10%. How much more satisfaction, happiness, money, and peace of mind are we talking about?
Negotiation turns out to be one of the things we do most in life. Getting better at it (even just slightly) offers immense rewards. Get going…