When most people think about a negotiation, they probably imagine a group of people sitting around a table and arguing until one side finally gives in. However, there is a whole lot more to negotiation than talking. In fact, listening is one of the most overlooked, yet important parts of any negotiation. Active listening is one of the most important skills to learn if you want to succeed in negotiations. Skillful listening can calm tensions, break a deadlock, and get you the information you need to reach mutually beneficial agreements.
What is Active Listening?
Active listening doesn’t mean simply paying attention while someone else is speaking. It requires an active mind as well as a degree of empathy to help you fully understand what the other person is saying. Active listening is actually a more involved process that can be broken down into three different behaviors: paraphrasing, inquiry, and acknowledgement.
Paraphrase: When someone speaks, it is important to listen first and then repeat it back to make sure you fully understand what was said. For example, you might say something like, “ It sounds like you are happy with the price but you need me to reassure you that this price will not change over time.” Paraphrasing allows you to demonstrate an understanding of exactly what the other person is saying.
Inquire: After listening to the opposing party, be sure to inquire about how you can reach a solution together. For example, “You mentioned that pricing was an issue. Help me understand why you feel this way and what you think would be reasonable.”
Acknowledge: Finally, let the other person know that you hear them and you genuinely care about their concerns. For example, “It sounds like you have some concerns and I would like to help address those concerns.”
Why is Active Listening So Important in Negotiations?
Active listening is an integral part of negotiating. In fact, it is even more important than talking. Negotiations are based on give and take and an exchange of information so active listening plays a key role in ensuring that all parties understand the information clearly. It is only through listening that you gather pertinent information about the other party such as their needs, problems, concerns, and motivations. Therefore, listening is necessary in order to gather all of the information needed to reach a mutually beneficial solution.
Listening also helps to create a level of trust and respect with the other party. Imagine a car salesman pitching the newest model to you. He may know all of the specifications and features of the vehicle and really know how to talk it up. Now, imagine a different salesman asking you about your needs and why you are looking for a vehicle? Which salesperson are you more likely to work with? Chances are you would prefer the salesperson that asked about your needs. That’s because listening to the needs of others shows a deeper level of understanding, empathy, and genuine concern. You are more likely to trust someone who is putting your needs first rather than someone who is only looking out for themselves. Listening is the key to developing that trust and building a more solid professional relationship.