Negotiation is an important skill in any setting, whether it’s a kitchen table, a corporate suite or a chamber of Congress. Although much has been written about the art of negotiating, some myths persist. By addressing these misconceptions, it’s possible to better understand how training and practice can bring success at the negotiating table.
Myth 1: Good negotiators are born, not made
This theory holds that effective negotiation is reserved only for individuals with innate charisma and the ability to persuade others. In other words, some people just have it, while many others don’t. However, negotiation is a skill that can be learned and polished. Through professional education and training, negotiators learn to read others, assess motives and adjust their own strategies accordingly. They also learn that success depends, in part, on their efforts to research and understand organizations and goals, and the degree to which negotiating positions may be flexible. Although some practitioners may appear to have natural ability to negotiate, their confidence may come from adequate preparation. With the required commitment and dedication, individuals can learn the art of negotiation in the same way they can master other crafts.
Myth 2: Go with your gut feeling
Another common misconception about negotiators is that they rely heavily, if not solely, on instinct and can sense when a deal is going well or poorly. However, what outside observers refer to as instinct is more likely the result of skills learned through training and practice. Successful negotiators devote time to researching the other parties, including their desired outcomes and their likely willingness to be flexible. Such knowledge places a negotiator in a much stronger position than if he or she was simply to “wing it” at the negotiating table. Intuition can be used to gauge the degree to which your preparations have produced reliable information, not as a replacement for careful research and planning.
Myth 3: Experience is the best teacher
Professionals benefit from experience and negotiators are no exception. Still, experience is just one teacher, not necessarily the best teacher. It is natural to feel confident about your skills after gaining extensive experience, but it can be a mistake to grant too much credit to experience alone. Confidence can be a double-edged sword and may derail a negotiation by encouraging excessive risk-taking. Successful negotiating requires the awareness that a strategy that worked in the past may not work in every situation. Even after years of practice, research and preparation remain vital components of a negotiator’s toolbox. Experience can provide negotiators with a beneficial level of comfort, but it won’t compensate for an absence of training in effective techniques and strategies.
By understanding these myths and misconceptions, it’s possible to gain a deeper knowledge of the factors that play a role in the development of a skilled and successful negotiator.
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