As I've coached senior leaders in communication skills for the past three decades, I've had opportunity to observe 10 habits that set successful negotiators apart from their less-successful colleagues. These communication habits may help you in the new year as you strive to get a better job, close bigger deals, and expand your influence.
1. Successful negotiators listen to a complete thought expressed. Their less successful colleagues assume they know what the other person "is driving at" so they interrupt often, missing much of the message.
2. Successful negotiators practice focused attention. Their less successful coworkers often set themselves up for failure. They become easily distracted with email, texts, electronic gadgets, or passers-by. They try to multi-task (which, of course, is simply rapid attention switching). In doing so, they let their mind wander off topic--again missing key information.
3. Successful negotiators take notes on what they hear. The less successful assume they will remember what they hear, and seldom make notes or recap after the fact. Or they take notes only to refute the other person's points.
4. Successful negotiators listen for areas of agreement. Unsuccessful negotiators tend to listen for areas of disagreement.
5. Successful negotiators identify alignments (mutual acquaintances, referrals, recommendations) to make assessments and look for mutual opportunities in other ventures. Their less successful colleagues either fail to pick up on these tidbits of information or tune them out as irrelevant.
6. Successful negotiators ask probing questions to understand the other person's goals, needs, concerns, and any resistance to an agreement. Less successful negotiators spend time focused on stating their own needs, goals, and concerns.
7. Successful negotiators ask questions to clarify understanding before drawing conclusions. The less successful jump to conclusions based on assumptions.
8. Successful negotiators read body language well. They also acknowledge that they're listening (with eye contact, facial expression, note-taking). The less experienced negotiator pays little attention to body language--his own or the other person's.
9. Successful negotiators can be comfortable with silence; they listen far more than they talk. The unseasoned negotiators become rattled with silence; they talk more than they listen, giving away far too much information and failing to gather information they need.
10. Successful negotiators stay calm and controlled even in heated discussions. Their less successful colleagues get agitated in tough discussions and react emotionally--only to regret the results later.
A new job, better working conditions, an improved marriage relationship--what can you negotiate for yourself in the coming year?