It appears there is an art to negotiation. Negotiation is subtle, requires dexterity and a clear understanding of both sides. Everyone knows Sun Tzu, author of The Art of War (6th century BC Chinese military tactician), and I found that his classic quotes could also be easily used in negotiation. So I’ve decided to devise my top 5 tips in the art of successful negotiation with a little help from my friend Sun Tzu.
“Know thy self, know thy enemy. A thousand battles, a thousand victories.”
1/ Know what you want, and know what the other side wants.
Never enter negotiation thinking, I’ll just wing it. Odds are that the other party already knows your weak side and what you aim to achieve.
“He who knows when he can fight and when he cannot, will be victorious.”
2/ Prepare for what you are ready to concede, in favour for something more important. Timing is key and know when to let go. Ideally, we’d like a win-win situation but it doesn’t happen as often as all that. Therefore, making concessions is not a sign of weakness, but from understanding where we can gain more by compromising elsewhere.
“Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.”
3/ Go into negotiation with a plan.
Successful negotiation cannot come out of confusion. Plan and prepare as if going into war.
“Be extremely subtle, even to the point of formlessness. Be extremely mysterious, even to the point of soundlessness. Thereby you can be the director of the opponent’s fate.”
4/ Control the information you give and listen.
Think Poker. Give away too much information out of nervousness is fatal – you’re showing your cards before the opponent calls. Not listening or watching the other party means you lose out essential clues as to how close you are in your deal.
“The general who advances without coveting fame and retreats without fearing disgrace …is the jewel of the kingdom.”
5/ If all else fails, be ready to walk away.
Is winning everything? Not necessarily. Better to walk away than sign a deal with a losing outcome for yourself.
I hope these tips help you as much as they have helped me. Of course, the reality is not as easy, I should know. In personal and professional life, we don’t even realise that we are constantly negotiating. So good luck out there, it’s not really a minefield but think of it as a fine art.