Strong negotiation skills are not just for the boardroom. Knowing how to negotiate is important for the kitchen table too.
Families negotiate more often than they may even realize. Some discussions can be trivial, like deciding what movie to watch. Others, however, are more serious, like deciding how to handle the family business.
Negotiations in general can be quite challenging. Throw in family dynamics and things could get rough. This article shares some helpful tips from negotiation training experts to make those discussions flow more easily.
Preparation gives you time to map out a plan for the meeting. Working with a plan puts you in a stronger position to progress the discussion to a positive outcome. Taking time to prepare also allows you to organize your thoughts, which can improve how you communicate. How you talk to loved ones can make all the difference when you’re trying to work something out.
Here are a few ways you can prepare to increase the chances of a positive outcome.
- identify the purpose of the negotiation and your ideal outcome
- figure out what other participants may want or need to sign off on a desired outcome.
- think about what you want to say and the best way to say it
review past meetings (borrow what worked and make a note of what didn’t)
Create an agenda
The familiarity of family relationships can affect the seriousness of the meetings. As a result, it’s easy for conversations to go off track. An agenda lends an air of formality and can help to keep the discussion focused.
You can also use an agenda to help with timekeeping. People tend to get more irritable when meetings eat into the time needed for other activities.
Create an agenda and share it with everyone. Send it out early enough to give family members time to review it so there’s active participation during the meeting.
Pick a good time and place to meet
When and where you meet can impact the negotiation process. Negotiation skills trainers suggest meeting in person so you can read everyone’s body language.
According to psychologist Dr. David Matsumoto, body language, how you say it, has a greater impact on discussions than what someone is saying. For example, someone may say they understand you but still have a puzzled look on their face by the end of your discussion. Also, when people meet face to face, communication is clearer and there are fewer disruptions.
Get family members involved in choosing where and when to meet. You could suggest a few dates, times, and places to help them make a decision.
Set ground rules
Ground rules help keep the conversation constructive. Some examples you may wish to include are:
- no shouting or raised voices
- no personal attacks or finger-pointing
- only one person talks at a time
- no electronics use during the negotiation
Go over the rules before you start the negotiation. Make sure everyone involved understands the rules. Also, ask if any others should be added to the list and update rules as needed.
Try not to let your emotions get the best of you
Emotions aren’t good or bad. However, feelings influence thoughts and behavior, which can cause issues in a negotiation. For example, anger could cause you to say something unkind. So, it’s important to control your feelings.
Negotiation trainers offer the following tips on how to stay in control of your emotions:
- stay objective and keep the bigger picture in mind
- negotiate the issue and not the person
- know your triggers so you can catch emotions before they affect you
- take a break when discussions get heated
Aim for a win-win outcome
Maintaining relationships should be the ultimate goal of any family negotiation. Adopting a competitive, hard-nosed approach does the opposite. So, aim for a win-win outcome.
A win-win outcome is one where everyone walks away with something they are happy with. Here are a few tips on how to reach this outcome when you negotiate:
- keep an open mind and be flexible in your thinking;
- be empathetic, positive, and optimistic;
- find interests you have in common;
- be open to making tradeoffs that can help you reach mutual agreements.
Practice active listening
In communication training courses, active listening is defined as understanding what was said and unsaid plus, the emotion behind it all. Listening attentively helps build relationships, ensures understanding, and shows respect. Furthermore, this skill can also help prevent and resolve conflicts.
Strengthen your listening skills by:
- giving the speaker your full attention
- being mentally present
- keeping an open mind
- not interrupting or finishing the speaker’s sentences
- asking questions only to confirm understanding and not to interject your own opinions.