Listening – a Must-Have Skill at Negotiations

Negotiating business deals and bargaining with the toughest business individuals in the industry can be both challenging and frustrating. Whether you’re an avid entrepreneur, a CEO or just a manager trying to make order in the office, you must know that the key to negotiating with people is to become an active listener. Listening is an excellent way of evaluating opponents. Basically, by allowing them to talk more, you have enough time to make an opinion and build a strategy.


How can active listening can impact your company’s bottom line?

Successful negotiations are based on an unremitting influx of information. A whole process shapes up, which means it may take quite a lot awhile before it materializes. Entrepreneurs and CEOs shouldn’t expect opponents to reveal essential information; however, by letting them speak first, you might get an idea of their intentions. Active listening helps you form an opinion about your counterpart. Are they looking to build a relationship? Are they willing to compromise?

Negotiating means collaborating with an opponent, who can either be a business partner, an investor, even an employee. Active listening keeps you on alert. You’re not just allowing counterparts to speak first, but you’re also trying to beat them with their own guns. Each and every allegation made has to be backed up by solid proof. If they fail to that, you can always use their mistakes – which are often called “lies” – against them.

Be determined to listen

Good listening doesn’t come easy. It’s tough work to have to listen to someone who just can’t shut up. Sometimes in business, it’s better to let them talk and not interrupt. It’s quite obvious that the person with the greatest amount of useful information has the highest chances of success. It might be an excellent idea to set up goals for the different type of information you’d like to receive from your opponent. But that’s not your toughest challenge. The real problem comes when you must find the motivation to listen to a person you dislike, or even despise.

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Avoid conflict

Negotiations are not about winning 100% of a deal. They’re about persuading opponents to engage in mutual agreements, and find a way settle without creating conflicting situations. Active listening can help business people avoid conflict. Why engage in a fight, when you can wait for the other party to finish talking? Show respect, allow them all the time that they need to make a point, and then counteract. To win negotiations, these tips can prove to be extremely helpful:

  • Control your style of communication – when it’s your turn to speak, do it gently and patiently; let opponents sense that they can trust your judgment
  • Body language – an active listener must show to his opponent that he’s paying attention; nod your head each time you hear a good line, and maintain eye contact to seem interested
  • Show respect and don’t interrupt
  • Maintain a professional attitude, even if you sense that there’s a bit of tension in the room

Stay flexible

A flexible, unbiased attitude is required to win negotiations. Allow your opponent to speak, and wait until the end to ask questions. Keep your questions short and to the point; don’t forget that you’re negotiating not racing to win a prize. It’s natural to have doubts about allegations your opponent has made, so don’t hesitate to ask for clarifications. When you clearly understand what the speaker is trying to say, you also understand the choices he’s about to make. Talk about negotiations and find a way to build a connection.

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Active listening skills are incredibly tough to master. Sometimes, what counterparts are saying during a business negotiation is not interesting at all. Sadly, you can’t do anything about that and you must find a way to remain engaged. Relate to the things opponents are saying, and write down essential ideas. This way, you can review them later.

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Practice active listening as often as you can. Join negotiation workshops, seminars and training sessions to help master your bargaining skills. Watch online tutorials and learn from the best in the business. It might take a while for you to become an excellent negotiator, but as long as you practice you will eventually excel.

This guest post is courtesy of Steve Brown.

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  1. There seems to be two underlying assumptions among the people cited here:
    1. When I start talking, people will begin to listen.
    2. Others share my listening preferences and will listen like I do.
    Both of these assumptions are false and cause poor decisions, loss of productivity, employee distrust, customer defection. It’s challenging to get executives to understand what listening really is and how to practice it, but when grasped, the results are worth the effort.

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