Interpersonal Skills: Your Negotiating Must-Have

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A strong negotiator has strong interpersonal skills. Increase your knowledge of various cultures and strategies to make the most of every negotiation situation.

A successful negotiation can land you new clients, prospects, and jobs. It can resolve conflict, find compromises and — outside of work — perhaps land you a better price for a new car.

It’s safe to say that most who enter a negotiation hope to leave with good results. Achieving these results, however, can be a stumbling block that many do not overcome.

Communication skills, or lack thereof, can make or break deals and leave you unhappy with your draw. One of the most crucial of these skills is your interpersonal skills.

The bottom line? The use of interpersonal skills is non-negotiable when it comes to strong negotiations.

What are Interpersonal Skills?

These skills often fall under the umbrella of social skills, or the traits of a “people person.” Beyond aiding in clear and effective communication, using interpersonal skills will improve your recall and concentration. Someone who uses these tactics well will:

  • Use active listening skills
  • Maintain patience, empathy, and flexibility
  • Accept leadership and responsibility
  • Be seen as a team player and dependable

These are great qualities for any co-worker or peer but especially come in handy for negotiating.

Why are interpersonal skills important for negotiations?

Many who claim a dislike negotiating to do so out of a fear of conflict. Indeed, very few people will report that they enjoy attempting to defeat, outwit, or pull one over on a fellow human being.

With developed and well-honed skills, these dreaded confrontations can be changed into friendly discussions. Let’s break down interpersonal skills’ outcomes and how they translate into strong negotiations.

1. Active listening

Passive listeners may smile and nod while mentally planning their next response or night’s dinner. Active listeners, on the other hand, truly focus on all of the information being shared with them. They ask great questions, stay engaged with the speaker, and take good notes when necessary.

Active listening is a vital skill in negotiations as it allows you to understand the nuances of the information being shared, including non-verbal cues and underlying messages.

Passive listeners, on the other hand, may miss important details while being preoccupied with their own thoughts. By actively listening, you can ask great questions, stay engaged with the speaker, and take good notes when necessary, demonstrating your understanding and engagement.

For more information about barriers to listening and communication read here to make logical points and learn negotiation skills that can make a positive impression during discussions with your counterpart.

Following these guidelines is more than just polite. Ensuring that you are understanding the information given to you will aid you in making wiser dealing decisions. You will come across as more kind and more friendly which, in turn, will build your bond with future partners.

2. Patience, empathy, and flexibility

Negotiation spaces can quickly become boring rooms when negotiations stretch on for hours.

The ability to remain patient, show empathy, and stay flexible in spite of shortened lunch breaks or tireless debates will help ease these boardroom burdens.

Mastery of these skills will allow you to keep your cool in the face of frustration. You’ll have an easier time avoiding the appeal of just settling for reckless or short-changing deals.

3. Leadership and responsibility

Confidence in your abilities as a negotiator will empower you to take on leadership roles. At the same time, the self-awareness that is gained through these skills will have you recognizing your own flaws. In those moments, it is crucial to accept responsibility for your actions.

This constant transparency, whether in negotiations or within your day-to-day work life, will increase others’ trust in you and your character. When it comes to making a compromise or deal, partners will be more willing to work with and take a risk on you.

4. Perceived dependability

Negotiations often involve asking someone to invest their time, money, or energy into you. Distracted, aloof, and shifty communicators do not convey a sense of reliability. The use of interpersonal skills helps to communicate your value through every single interaction.

From keeping your head in the game to earning your respect, interpersonal skills should always have a seat at the table… no matter where in the world that table is.

How do interpersonal skills differ across cultures?

Of course, every culture comes with its own style of communication. Everything from voice level, talking distance, and length of discussion can have different implications in different parts of the world.

Investing a couple of hours into cultural research before meetings will pay off in gaining respect, cultural sensitivity, and ease of communication.

Here are some things to keep in mind when approaching cross-cultural communication that will shape how you best utilize your interpersonal skills:

Diversity is beautiful and inevitable.

Evolving technology has made connecting with people around the world incredibly efficient. But that doesn’t mean it’s been made easy. Challenges come in the form of language barriers and non-verbal cues whose meanings vary around the world. For some, navigating the cultures of others does not seem worth the effort.

However, diversity of thought and cultures is essential during the creation of projects, workplaces, or ventures. Ignoring your duty for cultural education puts the inclusion and comfort of others at risk.

Life experience shapes thinking.

In a cut-throat negotiation scenario, we may dismiss ideas that clash with ours. When people start on different pages, it can feel impossible to ever come to the same conclusion.

It’s important to keep in mind that one’s life experience shapes their worldview and thinking. These differences do not have to be the end of your work. Instead, they are valuable opportunities to learn from one another.

Don’t be afraid to ask for someone’s logic when negotiating. Hearing others’ thoughts will give you insight into their mindset and expectations for the discussion. You can use this knowledge to your advantage.

Respect has a place in every culture.

In Japan, business communication is referred to as “high context.” Communicators rely heavily on nonverbal cues and prior knowledge to quickly reach conclusions without the use of many words. In Russia, business negotiations can involve bluntness and sarcasm.

For some, interacting with these unique communication styles would be uncomfortable and even undesirable. But despite the diversity across countries and cultures when it comes to interaction, one thing remains the same.

All humans deserve respect, and you are responsible for learning how to show it.

You may not know it all, but someone does.

Humans are, by nature, flawed. When faced with a new situation, it can be instinctual to simply try your best and claim ignorance.

Still, that same Internet that can connect you with people across the world also contains a wealth of information on how best to connect with them. Do not limit your ability to effectively negotiate by failing to prepare yourself.

The world is full of resources that can help you to control and navigate negotiations. Here’s your first step.

Earn a certificate from UC Davis Graduate School of Management

Develop and validate your skills through UC Davis’s Strategic Negotiations online short course. This six-week program, led by industry expert Jim Olson, will help you craft a negotiation strategy and navigate cross-cultural communication.

Your certificate of completion from this top-ranked U.S. university will be proof of your gained knowledge and will provide more confidence going into every business interaction.

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