Elevating Your Negotiation Skills with Empathy

“Empathy is seeing with the eyes of another, listening with the ears of another, and feeling with the heart of another.” – Alfred Adler

In business negotiations, understanding and connecting with the other party’s emotions and perspective – a skill known as tactical empathy – can significantly enhance your outcomes.

Tactical empathy is about genuinely understanding the feelings and mindset of the person you’re negotiating with. This approach shifts your focus from winning a negotiation to solving a problem together. Consider a situation where a customer hesitates on a deal. Instead of pushing your agenda, try to understand their concerns. Are they worried about cost, quality, or after-sales service? By identifying and addressing these concerns, you can build trust and find solutions that work for both parties.

In your next negotiation, focus on the other person’s emotions. Listen actively to what they say, and more importantly, to what they don’t say. This can give you insights into their true concerns and motivations.

For example, if a client expresses concern about the long-term viability of a project, rather than immediately offering reassurances, try to understand their specific worries. You could say, “It seems like you’re concerned about the project’s future impact on your business. Can you tell me more about your specific concerns?” This shows that you’re listening and care about their perspective.

Action Step: Practice tactical empathy in your next business meeting. Listen attentively, acknowledge the emotions you perceive, and respond in a way that shows you understand and respect their perspective.

By incorporating tactical empathy into your negotiation strategy, you’ll not only improve your chances of reaching a successful agreement, but also build stronger, more collaborative business relationships.

To learn more strategies on negotiation, be sure to check out our book of the week “Never Split the Difference” by Chris Voss.

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