Negotiating Skills: Communicate Better

A negotiator needs to be a skilled communicator. His role is to deliver and receive information. If negotiating is an art then communicating is like the practice of architecture.

Learning to emphasize or reinforce what you are saying through your body language and demeanor improves your communication. Actors practice or rehearse their lines in front of mirrors to get their entire persona to deliver the "feeling" as well as the line. Attorneys preparing opening and closing arguments do the same thing. Prepare, review, and practice for a meeting until you have mastered the subject matter, know your objectives, and are confident to field issues as they are presented. You want to be able to control and direct the conversation; not be subject to the control of another person.

To be able to communicate your thoughts to another person you need to be organized, knowledgeable and prepared. Being prepared is the first step to good communications. Taking responsibility for communicating your position is the second. People seldom change their minds when being lectured. If they are not mentally preparing their response to you they are likely thinking of the upcoming evening's activities; they are not on fully focused on what you are saying. Your challenge is to break through and help them actually hear and understand what you are saying.

The third step to good communications is to listen well. Get rid of your bad listening habits. Our minds continue to process other things while we are listening. Because of this, we are apt to be subconsciously trying to frame a response to the last point made, figure the odds on the baseball game this evening, concocting a strategy to get a raise at work and worrying about last night's fight at home; all the while also listening to the other person making a point. With all this concurrent activity, actually hearing what is being said is at best difficult.

Hearing the subtle nuances within the context of the remarks is next to impossible. It is the context of the remarks, the non-verbal signs sent while speaking, the subtle inflections that give color and depth to the remarks. You have to be attuned to capturing these embellishments if you are to learn from what the other person is saying.

Everyone should always strive for improved communication skills. It is very difficult to forge an accord when one or both of the parties are not hearing and understanding the other. As an informal, small group leader, focus first on opening clear channels of communication.