My children are masters at the art of negotiation. Not a day goes by without having to enter into a tricky back and forth discussion over bed times, requests for a second piece of cake, or carrying out their chores.

Most of us begin exploring the world of negotiation from a very young age.   Although blatantly simplistic (and obviously not directly transferable to a business environment), these simple conversations are the beginning of negotiation nonetheless.

Suzi McAlpine - the Art of Negotiation

Me and my parents, around the age of four, when I would have no doubt been trying out the art of negotiation.

The art of negotiation is undoubtedly an essential skill for everyday life. And when it comes to business, negotiation is a critical component of success.

A common myth is that negotiation is a tool which only salespeople should sharpen. But the reality is every business leader should practice improving their negotiation skills.

Whether you are discussing a project deadline with stakeholders, pitching for resources for an investment, or negotiating a salary with a potential employee, knowing and using the basics tools of negotiation is a distinct advantage in business.

Here are 6 simple tips for effective negotiation:

1.      Plan.  It’s obvious, but it is essential to know your bottom line, or ‘walk away point’, in addition to your ‘best case scenario’ before entering into the negotiation. Also consider what time frames and other constraints you are both working within – and whether there are there any alternatives.

Then focus your attention to the other party. Do you know what they want and value? What are their alternatives? What is the ‘back story’ they are bringing to the negotiation table?

2.     Ask for what you want. Aiming for what you consider to be your best case scenario can sit uncomfortably, but realising you received less than you could have feels much worse.

In his book Negotiation Boot Camp: How to Resolve Conflict, Satisfy Customers, and Make Better Deals, Ed Brodow says, “there is a difference between being assertive and being aggressive. You are assertive when you take care of your own interests while maintaining respect for the interests of others. When you see to your own interests with a lack of regard for other people’s interests, you are aggressive. Being assertive is part of negotiation consciousness.”

3.     Listen and paraphrase.  It is important (as with any interaction in business) to seek to understand before being understood.  Many negotiations have gone AWOL because one party has not taken the time and attention to truly understand what the other party wants – or where they are coming from. Talking too much, making assumptions and neglecting to pay attention to what is not being said are common traps for poor negotiators.

4.     Be willing to walk away. This relates to point one regarding knowing what your bottom line is. Always know when to walk away. And do it if you need to. Remember tomorrow is another day.

5.     Don’t rush the process. Patience is a virtue in negotiations. This can be particularly important when dealing with other cultures who take longer than your own to come to an agreement. Sealing the deal too quickly can lead to mistakes.  As Barbara Buell says in her article Negotiation Strategy, “Accepting a well-priced deal too quickly can cause anger on the other side, too.”

6.     Don’t give anything away – without getting something in return.  My son is a master at this trick, even at eight years old!

Do you have any negotiation tips to add to this list?