From arguing…to Negotiating

I should start this post with a huge warm shout out to Natalie Reynolds of Negotiations firm Advantage Spring. She took me from bolshy and argumentative (so my mum says) to sleek, fair, primo negotiator in one afternoon….

Well, that is what I am telling myself, and you.

The last two days I have been living my favourite two days of the year…that is, I have been in London for the 3rd Annual ‘Women in Leadership’ trip for Edinburgh Uni. As ever, it felt a little like a car whizzing past nnnneeeeeeoooooowwwww – a whirlwind of events, workshops and uplifting and thought provoking conversation. Now I am breathing, rebooting and figuring out, like I do every year, just how this one has changed me for the better (helped by a delayed flight and a glass of picpoul!).

I was at a bit of an advantage, as I am every year, in that this trip is my baby. I organise it from the ground up and feel very fortunate I am in a role where I can essentially CREATE the learning and sharing experiences that I truly believe enrich business school experience outside the classroom.

This year we focused on ‘VOICE – Negotiations and Executive Presence’, something I have thought long and hard about given at various times I have felt like speaking out, like keeping quiet, like I kept quiet when I should have spoke out, like an introvert, like an extrovert, like an extrovert’s life coach.. you get the picture.

Natalie stepped in and quietened the noise in my mind about what my voice is and should be, and helped me figure out how I want it to SOUND to the people I am engaging with. Her approach to negotiations is simple… that is is simply…SIMPLE. Often, she says, negotiation skills are dressed up, overlaid with too many models, and almost held up as something that is a natural talent and very hard to master.

Given we banish the fixed mindset from the Knowledge Zig Zag, her approach we like – it has growth mindset all over it. You can learn how to negotiate. So we did. I have included below some of her top tips:

  1. Firstly, just flippin’ do it – often we do not ask for what we want! If we don’t ask, we never enter into any negotiations, we never practice, and we lose out. AGREED.
  2. Be aware of anchors – do not let others set the tone and language of your negotiation. Own it. If they open with a number, do not negotiate from that point – state your own opener and re-calibrate the conversation around YOU.
  3. No is an invitation to negotiate – this is great news for me, as when I hear NO I think, great – a challenge! This is good apparently…
  4. Leave the other side SATISFIED – you are not out to destroy them, you are out to achieve what you need whilst not destroying business relationships.
  5. See the world through their eyes. Bring your capacity for empathy to the negotiating table and success will follow.

In short, negotiation is part of what is is to be human. It is an essential and unavoidable part of what makes us us and binds us together in the push and pull of life. I must remember that my negotiation voice will sound different to everyone I engage with, but that always underpinning it will be one of my most valuable yet fragile muscles – my negotiation muscle.  Like a muscle, negotiation skills can be grown, exercised, strained, torn and re-built, and that for all these things it can be the different between getting what you want, credibly, and ending up with nothing!

Thank you Natalie!


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