In order to negotiate well, it is important to listen carefully to the other parties to the discussion. Despite best intentions, not all parties will clearly and succinctly state either their objectives or their reasons for particular requests. In order to find mutual grounds toward which to work, therefore, a good negotiator will listen carefully, empathetically, and with a mind to understanding their counterpart’s motivations.
Negotiation trainers, including hostage negotiators, describe the necessary process as “active listening.”
- Listen intently;
- Don’t interrupt or demonstrate how you evaluate anything you hear;
- Acknowledge points as they are made;
- Reflect back to the speaker points as they are made;
- Ask questions to clarify any point you do not understand or suspect may need further explication;
- Use open body language.
It is particularly important not to immediately react while the other party is speaking. If you demonstrate a reaction, if your face betrays disapproval or emotion, the speaker is likely to ratchet up their emotional involvement in an effort to make their point more convincing and adamant. As your speaker makes points, nod and indicate with acknowledging comments you are listening and understand.
Asking questions is an important component of listening. Not only does a question clarify any points you may not fully understand, but a question also demonstrates you are listening to the speaker and thinking about what they are saying.
Finally, body language also counts. Make good eye contact on occasion and stay relaxed avoiding a “closed off” appearance. Be careful not to reflect emotion or disagreement on your face and smile when appropriate and authentic.
Three days down. Only two more days and we will be much closer to “Yes”!