In law, negotiations between parties can end in a win-win for both sides or they can break down and leave your client further from their objective. It’s a delicate dance that requires a clear understanding or your client’s needs and desires as well as those of the opposing party.
Here are seven tips for negotiating effectively.
Adopt a negotiator’s mindset
A negotiation is not an adversarial proceeding. The goal is not to persuade the other party or opposing counsel that your client’s legal position is the correct one. Instead, a negotiation gives the participants an opportunity to engage in a conversation about the interests of both parties that might provide the basis for a negotiated agreement. A skilled negotiator will attempt to establish rapport with the other participants and will treat them with respect no matter what happens. Positive relationships among the participants will increase the likelihood of a successful negotiation.
Prepare yourself mentally
Negotiations involve subtle balances and imbalances of power. Before going into a negotiating session, take a little time to prepare yourself to remain calm, centered, comfortable, and in full possession of your own power. Some negotiators meditate for a few minutes, while others prefer to take a walk around the block. Develop a centering ritual or practice that works for you.
Stay focused on your client’s goals
Throughout the negotiation process, have your client’s goals clearly in mind. Understand what your client wants to achieve and avoid. Don’t let the desire to reach an agreement compromise your client’s objectives.
Practice total awareness
In a negotiation session try to notice everything that happens in the room. Look for tips, cues and openings from the other party or from opposing counsel. Body language, gestures, word choices, and tone of voice speak volumes. The words used to make a point can reveal a lot about the other party’s values and priorities.
To maintain the credibility necessary to be an effective negotiator, make sure everything you say is true. Also understand the difference between telling the truth and telling the whole truth. Telling the whole truth may be inadvisable and may even violate the attorney-client privilege. Choose words carefully and communicate clearly so that what you say is in fact true.
Know when to stop
If negotiations stall, try to notice whether rapport among the participants has been lost. Continuing to negotiate when rapport is lost is unlikely to be productive, since the other participants will not be able to fully hear what you say. Take some time to clear up any misunderstandings and re-establish rapport before continuing to negotiate. When it becomes clear that an agreement acceptable to your client will not be reached at a negotiation session, it is best to politely end the session. Keep the door open to a future session when the time is right.
When an agreement is reached in a negotiation make sure there is a meeting of the minds on all key points, since it can be difficult to come back later to issues that were not addressed. Promptly confirm the agreement in writing.