Even before taking the Negotiations class, I knew that I had a lot of room for improvement in my negotiation skills. My technical knowledge on this topic was almost non-existent, and while I wasn’t horrible at it, I would not have been called a ‘great negotiator’ by anyone. I knew something was missing, but I never what it was exactly. This is where this class has been very helpful. The first couple of classes immediately started highlighting my weak zones. To start, the concept of negotiation made me slightly uncomfortable.
I found that it was fun in the beginning of the sessions, but as we spent more time bargaining about the same stuff, it became much less comfortable and much less interesting for me, and I almost wanted to settle just to be done with that negotiation. When it comes to people themselves, I found that I did better against people that I wasn’t personally connected with. While I was against close friends, although it was more comfortable to have a conversation, it opened me up and I shared more information than I should have, and found myself caring too much about their feelings.
While empathy is a strong tool in negotiations, it should not cloud judgement regarding what is beneficial for you and your party. I feel like I have been one step behind all the time, chasing a runaway train. After starting strongly on the Herba Mate assignment, I fell into the trap of making early offers without having all the information on the chemical plant case. It turned out the case had a humongous bargaining zone, and a low opening allowed my partner to size me up and walk away with a win.
The new recruit exercise was a disaster for me. I was paired with Brendan, someone I spent a lot of time with during the first 3 mods. Inadvertently, I found myself considering his benefits and losses more than I should have. Also, a bigger problem was me not asking enough questions. There were many assumptions made by me based on the previous negotiations as well the initial information exchanged between us. Having said all that, I do believe I am learning a lot from these classes, and that was exactly my expectation from this course.
Even though it feels like chasing a train, I am chasing it. By the end of the semester, I want to be aware of the different types of negotiations there are, and which tactic is most effective in those scenarios, how to read people based on just what they say, understanding the strengths of each party’s BATNA and using mine to properly leverage them to bargain a deal beneficial for me. I want to be able to remove personal attachments and history from business negotiations and be objective when evaluating or presenting offers.
I also want to be able to listen more than I speak, which strategically is very important since it gives you a lot of information about the opposing party while not revealing too much about your hand. In negotiations, information is power. The more information you have, the better you can perform. But at the same time, I want the entire process to be amicable. I want to be able to analyse a negotiation at any stage, and rationally come up with a technique and strategy to use for that particular situation.
I want to be able to understand when to be more assertive and when to be more cooperative. A hard bargaining style can work better for distributive negotiations, but for integrative negotiations you need to be more cooperative and a little softer. I have been working on a plan to get there by the end. I try to implement everything I learn in class or readings to the exercises we do. I have been reading about bargaining tactics, and spending time reviewing the results of the exercise to figure out where others did better than what I did, and where I could improve next time.
I have also been watching videos of negotiations in order to see firsthand how to leverage the information and bargaining position that you have, when is it a good idea to make the first move, and when it is better to start passive and work your way to what you want. But the most important part of the improvement process would undoubtedly be the hands-on practice. I have been taking each negotiation exercise like an actual real-world negotiation, and I plan on continuing to do so. At the end of the day, nothing beats experience and all the theory in the world is going to be of no use if you don’t learn how to use and apply it correctly.