By Dannie-Lu Carr, Co-Founder, The Five Gateways

When walking into a negotiation, it is very easy to put yourself at the bottom of your priority list. In fact, why would you be thinking of yourself at all? You’re there to do business, right? And at the top of the list should be the business imperatives (usually financial) you are seeking from the deal?

Er, no.

If you walk into a deal that goes against your values and the things you believe to be right and fair you will be a terrible negotiator. Why? Because it will feel wrong, you won’t be wholeheartedly fighting your corner and you may even give in to the detriment of your business because you simply have no faith in what you are doing. So not only is this an unpleasant place to be, it’s also an unproductive one.

Now I know that in all but the most enlightened businesses it probably isn’t wise to start talking about your values in front of your boss. After all he/she is only interested in the objectives you are all trying to reach. But, if you want to be successful it’s imperative to be clear about where you sit, even if you have no plans to divulge your thoughts.

So, take some time before any negotiation or deal to formulate your thoughts clearly and check how the deal sits within your own set of values.

Establishing the solid ground
What does the business want from this negotiation? Set an ideal, set something the business would be happy with and set the lowest possible acceptable thing.


Now check these with your own values and wants. What do you want from this negotiation ideally? What would you be happy with? And what is the lowest thing you’d settle for?


Are the two lists comparable, i.e. is there a link between each point where you can sit assertively and strongly, knowing your solid ground? Before you move any further forward in this negotiation preparation, this needs to be clear in your own mind in order to create the unshakeable ground that is essential for successful and assertive negotiation.


Keeping it level
The next thing to be sure of is keeping the conversation level. If the person (or people) with whom you are in negotiation turns up their status in an attempt to have the upper hand, don’t fight them or let it knock your status down. Just calmly hold your nerve (the equivalent of the adult state in Transactional Analysis) and repeat your point.

Say less
Don’t over-talk. It’s extremely common that in a pressured situation such as a negotiation, nerves can fuel the rambler in you. In these situations less is most definitely more. Say what you need to say in as few words as possible. Silently, though still pleasantly, hold the confidence in your point of view, which we have now established is unshakeable for you. Simply repeat your offer if you need to, in response to a push from the other side.

Of those who say nothing, few are silent.
[/b]Thomas Neiel, poet and photographer[/b]

What to do and what to say
Be interested in the other party. The information they give you is crucial to how you move forward. Not only this, but by listening to the other party you build trust and therefore a more effective negotiation ground. Ask further questions about their vision and point of view. Be specific and genuinely interested.

When time is an issue
If you need time, whether to consult someone else or just to check in with yourself to think things through, then state that you are taking it. Don’t ask for it. Even if the negotiation is urgent, two minutes is doable. If you can, leave the room and walk for two minutes while you mull things through. Time-pressure in the room can be created by another party as a negotiation tactic. Even when the time-pressure is genuine, your decision will be better informed if you take the pressure off. Keep yourself the priority by keeping those stress levels down!

Visualise the win
Maintain a confidence that you will get what you want. Visualise the goal clearly before you go into the negotiation. What does it look like? The more specific and clear you can be with this for yourself, the stronger and more effective the negotiation and the more likely it is that you will achieve a win-win outcome.

Pitching and presenting an idea
As with negotiations, pitching and presenting an idea can often take precedence over taking care of yourself within the whole procedure. Since you are the communication media, which means that an idea or concept either flies or sinks with an audience, keeping yourself okay in there is one of the most important things for staying on track. After all, way over and above anything else, people buy into people.

Using the butterflies positively
Most pitches and presentations come with some degree of nerves, butterflies or adrenalin. When it comes to keeping yourself your priority it is essential that you learn to manage these feelings in a positive and constructive way. Firstly, it is important to note that these feelings are completely normal. We live in a society that tends to frame nerves as a bad thing that we have to change; it’s almost like we have failed if we have them. But I have some news — they are completely normal! Not only are they normal, they show that you are alive and engaged in what you are doing, which can only be a good thing. Don’t fight nerves. Think of them as but-terrifies or as energy that is going to work for you. Once you make peace with nervousness it ceases to take hostage of you. And then you feel okay, you feel like you’ve taken charge and you’re in a good place to pitch or present with absolute assertiveness!

Using simple structure
Some people like to prepare for a presentation and others like to ‘fly by the seat of their pants.’ Whichever works best for you, use it, and use some simple structure in there too. This helps to keep your message clear, it helps to serve values and it helps to give you something simple to check-in within your mind. By having a simple structure, you are freer and more flexible within the pitch to tackle tricky situations or manage any difficult questions that may come your way. There are a range of structures out there, from Aristotle (1) to Nancy Duarte (2). Have a look at some of them and seriously consider their use within your presentation. The message then stays clear and in the middle ground, allowing for far more buy-in from the relevant crowd.

Interacting with your audience
Pitching or presenting is essentially a conversation, and yet many people forget this and feel like they have to be the only one speaking. This is an extremely taxing position, mentally and physically. Start to consider, if you don’t do this already of course, interacting with your audience, letting the subject matter drift between the two of you so that it becomes a shared vision, a shared opportunity and a shared responsibility. Asking questions of the audience is a great way to give yourself a little breather while also allowing you to get more information about how the presentation is from their point of view, which can only ever be helpful and will portray you as far more confident and trustworthy.

When you’re next watching a TV interview or listening to a radio one, start to become aware of how the ‘people dynamics’ are playing out. Who does and says what and how does it affect the other person? This raises your levels of awareness about how we only ever do what we do as a response to something else. As human beings we are responsive creatures. Notice how this might compare to the effects people have on each other in a business negotiation.

This extract is taken from 'Brilliant Assertiveness' by Dannie-Lu Carr (published by Pearson). Dannie is co-founder of The Five Gateways, a leadership programme to empower dynamic women. See www.thefivegateways.co.uk

(1) See Aristotle’s 5 Point Plan to Persuade.
(2) See her take on presentations in her book slide:ology (O’Reilly Media, 2008).