“Every decision is preceded by a negotiation, even if it’s just with ourselves,” says Jochen Luksch, managing partner and VRP at Egger, Philips & Partner and speaker at Rochester-Bern’s CAS Leadership and Inclusion. In addition, the importance of negotiation skills increases in difficult economic times. One example of this is the price negotiations that are currently taking place in the context of inflation.
To prepare well for a negotiation, it is worth looking at the three levels of negotiation. These are the factual level: What is the issue at stake? The relationship level: Who is sitting at the table and how do these people relate to each other? And the process level: What is the course of the negotiation? “Anyone who starts a negotiation should have competencies in all three levels of negotiation management,” says Luksch.
Because Luksch knows from experience that negotiations quickly escalate if the necessary competencies are missing. “The negotiation starts with an opening position. Arguments and a counter-position follow. The pressure increases and it quickly comes to an attack,” says Luksch. But there are alternatives that enable a successful negotiation.
If you don’t want to settle for inefficiency and poor compromises, you should therefore approach negotiations differently.
Ideally, you look at the relationship level first. “If you notice that something is up in the air here, because someone is stressed or annoyed, for example, then you should address this first. Relationship issues need to be prioritized or you won’t make progress in the negotiation,” Luksch says.
It’s also important to realize that perceptions differ. People see things differently. “Try to understand where the other person is coming from,” Luksch says. This is where empathy is needed.
Another point is to identify interests, not positions. One should try to find out what interests lie behind the positions of the negotiating partner. This in turn opens up the space for different options. Together, one can look for possibilities and create value instead of destroying it.
Of course, these options must stand up to legitimacy criteria. This means that they should be comprehensible and that they should be realistic.
Last but not least, as a negotiating party, you should already clarify the best alternative before the conversation. “It’s best to know when you go into the negotiation what you’re going to do if the discussion fails,” Luksch says.
A sub-competence of negotiation skills is emotional intelligence. People with greater emotional intelligence are better able to empathize with others, and in doing so, more options open up that can lead to a solution. “The whole process changes because you can be more empathetic with your counterpart. This leaves more room for creativity and relationship skills increase,” Luksch said.
What exactly emotional intelligence is and how it leads to better negotiation skills is explained in detail by Jochen Luksch in Rochester-Bern’s CAS Leadership and Inclusion.