Life is all about negotiating. We see young children developing this skill when it comes to eating their greens. We negotiate with them: 'Eat your broccoli and you can have some dessert.' The decision is then up to them. How badly do they want the dessert? 'If I eat half of my broccoli, can I have half of my dessert?' The negotiations go back and forth. In some instances, it's non-negotiable; in others, there is room for flexibility-- normally depending on the energy level of the parent.

Good negotiating skills are an asset that can be used all day every day. Now, I would like to make the point that there is a difference between negotiating and being tough in business. The ideal outcome of a negotiation is that both parties walk away feeling some degree of satisfaction. To negotiate you need to be flexible and willing to listen to the other person's point of view.

The most successful people I know are excellent negotiators. I have often spoken to them about this skill, assuming that it was a natural ability. That's far from the case. Many of these people realized that winning in every situation requires someone to be the loser. In this way, bridges get burned, people become less willing to work with you again, and so on. These smart people have realized that they can get what they want by being flexible and making their opponent feel like a winner as well.

When it comes to being a truly successful negotiator, there are five important strategies:

  1. Always have a clear bottom line or outcome in your head - and under no circumstances go below that figure.
  2. Always put yourself in the shoes of the person you are negotiating. Figure out what it is that they really want out of the negotiation (and why they want it).
  3. Always be patient and never lose your cool in a negotiation.
  4. Always be prepared to walk away from the negotiation (be detached from the outcome).
  5. Ask the other person if they are happy with the outcome at the end of the negotiation.

You will be amazed at how many areas of your life can benefit from good negotiating skills. If you haven't got time to do a course, watch two children discussing a toy swap and you'll see all the necessary skills being played out in front of you.