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Negotiation is a process for satisfying needs. People negotiate daily in various situations. Individuals negotiate with others for everything from the cost of a car to the choice of restaurant for dinner. Negotiation is a form of cooperation and leads to compromises acceptable to both sides, bringing business projects to fruition. Many individuals become particularly skilled in negotiation through their life experiences. Others study the traits and techniques of successful negotiators. A select few become expert negotiators in the construction industry.

The Qualities of a Professional Negotiator

Awareness: Probably the single most important trait of a skilled negotiator is awareness. Negotiators must not only be perceptive of others, they must also be knowledgeable about themselves and the details of the issues under consideration. Negotiators must be able to understand others' reactions and quickly respond in a positive and productive manner. Awareness of the objectives and emotional involvement of both parties is of critical importance, since negotiations frequently seem to be on the verge of collapse. Additionally, a skilled negotiator is aware of the role of egos on both sides of the negotiation and makes appropriate allowances to ensure that these personalities do not become the focus of the negotiation.

Patience: Patience is a significant factor in the negotiation process. Impatience is a primary reason why negotiations break down. A skilled negotiator must have a high tolerance for frustration and be able to cope with delays and extended discussions. Unfortunately, many negotiators possess awareness, but lack patience. Realizing this shortcoming in themselves, intuitive negotiators use the skills of coworkers and other professionals to supplement their efforts.

Flexibility: Another characteristic of a successful negotiator is flexibility. Skilled negotiators rarely resort to a take-it-or-leave-it position. The professional negotiator is continually thinking of options and alternatives to ensure the negotiations proceed smoothly. Negotiators must rely on flexibility to continue positive communications until a point is finished. Experienced negotiators realize it is not necessary to succeed on every point. Flexibility instills self-confidence in the negotiator and communicates to others strength of character. Negotiation is not a game to be won or lost, but rather a challenge to provide solutions to complex business disputes.

Attentiveness: At the end of a prosperous career, a highly respected salesman was asked, "What made you so successful in a territory where few had done well?" He responded, "I listened well." This individual was not only a good salesman, he was also a skilled negotiator. He knew he could make a sale once he determined the needs of the other party. He was attentive to his clients and determined his responses by listening carefully to the client's position. As well as being attentive to what was said, he was attentive to the way it was said by assessing the tone of voice and body language. A negotiator listens to what is said as well as focusing on the speaker's attitude and the tone of the message. This full consideration provides the negotiator with an accurate analysis of the issue.

The skilled negotiator should be able to call upon all of the above characteristics during the negotiation process. The negotiator focuses on cooperation, collaboration, and productivity rather than emphasizing the tenuous proximity between negotiation and litigation.