Tuesday, May 24, 2022

The Importance of Listening During Negotiation

Successful negotiation isn’t a one-dimensional procedure. Rather, in order to negotiate well, an individual must account for a number of foundational skills. For instance, if the negotiator is unable to communicate clearly, it’s unlikely that they’ll be able to reach a win-win outcome, where they truly benefit from the agreement. If there are misunderstandings at any point in the discussion, this will lead to serious issues — miscommunication could even lead to hostility from your counterpart, should anything be interpreted as an attack against them and their interests. Or, miscommunication could simply lead to an unfair compromise, seeing as your own interests and goals weren’t properly expressed.

However, communication isn’t the only core ability to negotiation. In truth, communication actually goes hand-in-hand with another skill: listening. Or, more specifically, active listening.

Active Listening Versus Passive Listening

To some, this might seem like a bit of an obvious point. Of course, in order to negotiate with another party, you’ll need to listen to what they’re telling you. However, it isn’t nearly this simple. Not only must you be listening to your counterpart (literally speaking), you should also be listening to them in the correct way. This can be achieved through active listening, rather than passive listening.

When you listen passively to your negotiation partner, you’re hearing the words they’re saying — or, at least, most of their words. Still, in this scenario, you’re not fully absorbing and comprehending what’s being expressed to you. Not only should you hear your counterpart, but it’s vital that you understand what they’re attempting to communicate to you.

Good listening skills can offer negotiators a number of benefits, which can make it easier to reach a win-win compromise. For example, active listening can allow negotiators to break tensions — passive listening, however, may only strengthen these tensions. As soon as this type of conflict arises, active listening skills can allow you to better understand where your counterpart is coming from and respond in a way that is favorable to them. The better you understand the motivations and point of view of your successful negotiation partner, the easier it will be to avoid or defuse tension.

In addition, active listening makes it far simpler to acquire whatever information you need from your partner, leading you toward the best possible compromise. Whenever you listen passively, you risk missing or not fully understanding key points of information — especially if they’re not stated outright. To build a deal everyone’s satisfied with, you need to understand as much as you can about your counterpart.

The Skills of Active Listening

Again, active listening isn’t something that comes innately, to most individuals. Even if listening seems like an effortless response to being spoken to, this doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re actively listening. Simply sitting in silence as your counterpart speaks, maintaining eye contact, and providing them a quick “I understand,” isn’t enough to constitute active listening.

Instead, the experience of active listening is dynamic — not passive. To succeed as an active listener, you will need to master three particular skills. These skills are:

Paraphrasing

First, once your counterpart has finished speaking, try to verbally paraphrase what they’ve said to you. This is a beneficial technique, for a number of reasons. To begin, by paraphrasing your counterpart’s points (as you understood them), you’ll be able to confirm whether or not your understanding was correct — this allows you to efficiently catch any misunderstandings before they devolve any further.

Additionally, by verbally paraphrasing, you’re strengthening your own interpretation and understanding of your partner’s points. This will make it easier for you to process and fully absorb the information, rather than overlooking or forgetting it, moving forward.

Paraphrasing also allows you time to formulate your own response — a strong response. Finally, paraphrasing makes it simpler to build trust, in your counterpart’s eyes. This assures them that you’re listening carefully, and that you respect the argument they’re making.

Inquiring

After you’ve paraphrased your counterpart’s points, it’s time to pose an inquiry. Try to further dissect something that your negotiation partner has said or proposed, and pose an open-ended question, in response. Form a counterargument, and work toward a compromise.

Acknowledging

If your counterpart has any contentions or disagreements, don’t work around them — instead, address them outright. Restate your negotiation partner’s perspective and set up an opportunity to work toward an agreement that they’re satisfied with.

As you can see, active listening isn’t always straightforward. Instead, it’s a dynamic set of several skills, allowing individuals to fully comprehend and address the points of their counterpart. Ultimately, if a negotiator relies on passive listening, they’re going to be far more prone to miscommunication and difficulties reaching a compromise. Through paraphrasing, inquiring, and then acknowledging the points of your counterpart, you’re on your way to more fruitful and mutually beneficial negotiations.

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