Want a Particular Negotiation Outcome? Be a Better Listener.

Spend Matters welcomes a guest post from Jim Kiser of GEP.

Effective communication can be a challenge to many in today’s business industry. Deciding what cards or “tells” to show to internal stakeholders or external suppliers in competitive or strategic negotiations takes planning, preparation, openness, and wisdom. Communication is not just delivering static messages to the recipient. To be really effective in communication messaging, you have to be aware of what signals you are intentionally and unintentionally sending to the other group. You have to become strong in verbal and non-verbal messaging and methods in order to achieve the goals you set.

In the middle of negotiations, most of the time you and the other party are not completely in concert with expectations or clear outcomes. In fact you may be very much at odds without even knowing all the reasons as to why. It is important to begin with effective listening and understanding of the other side’s needs and issues. What is their intent? If you can show the other side that you are working to understand their intent clearly while gathering information about their strengths and weaknesses, you can begin to build trust and respect. Effective listening gives you an added advantage towards achieving your goals.

Here are some simple areas to consider in becoming a more effective listener and communication card player:

1. Learn to stop talking.

2. Choose an office or location environment that is comfortable for others.

3. Listen, look at them, and show interest.

4. Eliminate any distractions.

5. Be empathetic and understanding.

6. Take time and be a patient observer.

7. Don’t throw criticism into the meeting.

8. Avoid acting combative or argumentative.

9. Elicit questions.

10. Oh and …..STOP yapping!

Empathy is important as well. Keep in mind that understanding someone is not the same as agreeing with them. This is a very important difference. Learning to listen with real empathy focuses on the feelings and emotions, not the words.

Also, non-verbal actions such as body movements and eye movements can be very helpful. Use them to express a number of reactions to information such as acceptance, acknowledgement, clarity, excitement, and agreement. Make sure you plan in advance which non-verbal messages to use to create the best results towards achieving the desired outcome in the negotiations.

The use of active listening to communicate both verbally and nonverbally influences the outcome of your negotiation work. Just like a good poker player plans his or her card execution and table interactions with other players, you need to develop an overall communication strategy and know how, where, and when to use the various communication messages during your negotiation interactions.

For more interesting thinking on procurement, visit the GEP Knowledge Bank.

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