Negotiate Like an Improviser and Get What You Really Want

It’s what negotiation is all about.

Coming to an agreement that’s acceptable to both parties is the goal, though one side may have more leverage than the other.

In business, a negotiation can result in a formal contract or it may be a less formal remedy to a workplace issue.

You need to know how to negotiate, what a win-win looks like, why it’s important and how to stay positive throughout the process.

But, first things first.

Take your improv skills to the negotiating table for the best outcome. #improvtips

Why do you need to know how to negotiate?

Why you need negotiation skills

There are a multitude of reasons you need the ability to negotiate:

1. It benefits clients and employees

Working out contracts or trying to come to an agreement certainly requires good negotiating skills.

What many people don’t think about is the everyday situations that can also benefit from knowing how to negotiate and collaborate.

Consider buying a house.

You probably won’t find a home you love and offer the asking price.

It’s more likely that you’ll offer a lower amount and go back and forth with the seller before you land on a price with which you’re both comfortable.

2. It can boost your bottom line

The goal of any negotiation is for both parties to come away with the best deal possible for their respective organizations.

Let’s say the result of your negotiations is a 15% reduction in your overhead. The money you saved goes directly toward your profit margin.

This is also true for personal or compensation negotiations.

Just by stepping up, asking for more, and being willing to negotiate, you could get more than you expected.

3. It builds respect

Respect is an essential part of running any kind of business or organization.

You can be a firm haggler and still be respectful to the other parties.

It’s important that you leave a good impression after you’re done negotiating.

What skills do you need?

When you enter into negotiations with an improv mindset, you’re halfway there.

You’re ready to be an active listener with a “Yes, and” in your holster, internalizing what the other person says and coming up with a statement that moves the conversation forward.

Keep in mind that saying “Yes” during a negotiation may be dangerous.

Instead, say something like, “Yes, I see what you mean, and…”

When you’re doing improv, the goal is to keep the dialogue moving forward in a way that makes sense for everyone involved.

The same is true in negotiations. You want to continue discussions in a way that’s beneficial for everyone, seeking that win-win.

Here’s how to integrate your improv skills with effective negotiations.

A. Make small talk

Keep in mind that it’s not always appropriate to have a chat before you begin negotiations.

Deadlines may prevent you from taking too much time.

But, if you have the time to build rapport, do it.

You’re more likely to come to an agreement that makes you both satisfied if you take a few moments to get to know each other.

B. Be an active listener

To be a successful improv performer, you have to really listen to the people around you.

If you’re caught up in planning your own next move, you’re not hearing anyone else.

At the negotiating table, pay attention to the other person’s argument.

It may even help your understanding if you paraphrase and repeat it back to them.

Acknowledge the frustrations that are behind their words.

Not only will you gather valuable information, you may encourage your counterpart to listen well when it’s your turn to present your side.

C. Ask relevant questions

Your questions should be designed to get you as much information as possible.

Stick with open-ended questions, as opposed to those that can be answered with a  “yes” or “no.”

You should also avoid leading questions that are clearly designed to give you the answer you want – instead of trying to understand your counterpoint’s true feelings.

Why should you shoot for the win-win?

A win-win solution is the goal of any negotiation.

Both parties come away feeling as if they’ve been heard by the other side.

They also both come away with a definitive positive outcome.

What a win-win ISN’T

A win-win outcome doesn’t mean that everything is split “fairly” down the middle.

You can still negotiate a great outcome for yourself while ensuring that the other person receives a good outcome, too.

This is done by thinking creatively – like an improviser – about ways you can get more of what you want by helping the other party get what they want.

The bottom line

Your life is full of negotiations – personally and professionally.

When you learn to negotiate like an improviser by listening well, asking the right questions and attempting to build rapport with the other party, you’re much more likely to land that win-win result.

How do you approach negotiations?

The next time you’re in a negotiation situation, be intentional about really hearing what the other person has to say.

This article is 100% written by a human named Karen Hough. She is the Founder & CEO of ImprovEdge, in the top 4% of women-owned businesses in the US, a 3-time Amazon bestselling author, Yale grad, wife and mom of three.