Being a Good Negotiator Means Being an Active Listener

Don’t miss an opportunity to close a deal by not listening. There are countless tips and tricks out there for negotiating successfully but few of them are as powerful and effective as active listening. It may seem simple enough, but many people are not skilled listeners and the art of listening is often overlooked in negotiations. However, active listening is a vital skill that directly impacts the direction of the negotiation. Many problems in negotiations are attributed to poor listening and communication skills, so make sure your listening skills are up to par.

What is Active Listening?

Active listening involves engaging your mind in such a way that the person speaking to you has your undivided attention. Rather than listening to hear, you are listening to understand. One can demonstrate active listening by maintaining eye contact, nodding in agreement, relaying the same information back to the speaker for clarity, asking for more information or clarification, acknowledging and responding to the speaker’s feelings, validating their opinion rather than questioning it, and asking open-ended questions. Active listening is done with the intent to fully understand the other’s party’s point of view.

How Does it Impact Negotiations?

While it may sound simple, it actually takes some training and requires discipline and practice. Oftentimes when someone is speaking, we are thinking about how we will respond and our attention quickly shifts back to our own way of thinking. Although we might still be hearing the words, our mental attention is long gone. If you are listening with the objective to prove your own point of view, you often make assumptions and misunderstand what the other person is saying. This selective listening inhibits our ability to make a fair rebuttal and makes us appear less empathetic, trustworthy, and likable. Conversely, active listening keeps you attune to the needs of your counterpart so you can offer a reasonable solution.

Here are a Few Ways to Develop Listening Skills:

*Don’t Interrupt- Good listeners always let the other person finish speaking before opening their mouth. If you have a question along the way, write it down and continue to give the speaker your undivided attention. If you stop the speaker too soon, you may have cost yourself valuable information.

*Listen with Your Body- Show that you are listening through body language. Maintain eye contact, nod every so often, smile when appropriate, and lean in to show you are focused. This shows the other person that you are paying attention to everything they are saying.

*Paraphrase- After your counterpart has finished speaking, paraphrase what they said to show them that you have understood what they said.

*Ask for Clarification- Never make assumptions. Always ask for clarification if you are unsure about something that was said.

*Acknowledge Them- You don’t necessarily have to agree with everything the other party says, but demonstrate that you value their point of view. Be sincere when you acknowledge them and remain respectful. This creates a very positive negotiating environment.