How to Become a Better Negotiator

It is the first breakout session of the day at the Next Generation of Government Summit 2013, and already we can feel the skills are starting to grow and develop. Special Agent Douglas Quartetti from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms is outlining the necessary tools to become an expert negotiator. Quartetti is a crisis negotiator for the ATF and a former research psychologist. He is using his experience with ATF to share his top tips for how to become a better negotiator across all sectors and situations. Here are my Top Three tips that will help anyone negotiate smarter and more effectively to get what they want.

1. Focus on Interests, not Positions:

Positions are what you want, and interests are why you want it. Simply saying “I want that office” or “I want that budget money for my project” is not going to make the process of negotiation between two parties easy. In any good faith negotiation, it is important to make your interests known. Quartetti uses the negotiation over changing your office or desk as an example of the importance of focusing on your interests. Just declaring that you want a specific desk or office will not sway your boss to give you what you want. Make your interests known!

“I want that desk because it is near the stairs. I was in the first tower on the 63rd floor of the World Trade Center on 9/11 and I do not want to be caught in a situation where I cannot exit quickly ever again.”

Making your interests known, lets the other negotiator know why you took the stated position and will allow both parties to have a more dynamic discussion about how to get the most out of a situation so that each party walks away feeling like they’ve made the best decision by identifying commonalities in your interests.

2. The Best Negotiators Are Listeners, Not Talkers

One of the main themes running through Quartetti’s presentation is the value of good listening habits. He cites the importance of being a good listener by keying into main ideas and concepts, and by eliminating distractions so that you can focus on what the other person is saying. He also says that interrupting is one of the worst habits to have in a negotiation. People who are too eager to talk, tend not to listen and overpower negotiations. They miss the main ideas and interests involved in the exchange, and can miss opportunities to get the most out of a negotiation.

By listening and acknowledging the main points, you can maintain control of the negotiation through periodic summaries of key ideas. It lets the other person know that you’ve got a grasp on the situation, and also gives them the sense that they are being heard. Ask open ended questions so that the other person can talk their way through their interests. It will keep the conversation going – as soon as communication breaks down, the negotiation breaks down too.

3. Take a Caring Approach

Being unconcerned with the other party in a negotiation will only cause the other person to shut down. It will show in your body language and your tone of voice, which could provoke the other person to take a more hostile approach to your interests. Quartetti advocates for a caring approach by avoiding judgment of the other person and being confident and compassionate. Letting go of your perceptions of the person prior to negotiation will allow you to approach the situation with a more caring attitude, and the other person will open up and be more willing to share their interests.

However, Quartetti qualifies the caring approach – feigning a ‘caring’ attitude should be avoided, as many people can spot the insincerity. In most cases you will have an ongoing relationship with that person, and being disingenuous could make for an unpleasant work environment in the future. It can cause you to lose focus in the negotiation and therefore lack the concentration and understanding to get the most out of the exchange.

Quartetti draws from his experience of dealing with criminals in tense situations and very dangerous circumstances. In everyday negotiations in the government, we will be in a much different environment. However, Quartetti’s tips have universal application, and his advice can prove to be invaluable in any sort of negotiation.

Leave a Comment


Leave a Reply