Can we learn negotiation skills from our kids?

James Thomas, director of Seren Partnership, a company that provides negotiation training workshops to businesses, highlights how children demonstrate some key negotiation skills that adults could learn from and apply to their professional lives.

You can learn a lot about negotiation from children. We’ve all been there, so the skills should have been ingrained over the years. However, in adulthood these negotiation techniques become softer for whatever reason and impact our ability to negotiate as effectively as we could in our younger years.

child speaking in class

Five negotiation tips you can learn from children:

1) They’re not afraid to ask for what they want

Children’s needs are often driven by emotion. “I want an ice cream” or “Will you buy me that game?” They don’t think too hard about the appropriateness of their requests nor the rationale behind it. Unlike adults, they don’t worry about sounding greedy or unreasonable. This means they don’t talk themselves out of what they want before they start negotiating.

2) They ask lots of questions

The most common question asked by a child is “why?” Asking questions is extremely powerful, as it generates control of a negotiation. It also gets the other person talking and revealing information. Information is power in negotiations and can be used against the other person to get what you want. It’s important though to ask the right questions; those that help gain information, confirm facts and build relationships.

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3) They open high

Aim for the stars and you’ll reach the moon, as the saying goes. Children will demand more than they really need, knowing they can work back to an acceptable middle ground. They are not concerned about a fair deal for the other party, just a great deal for themselves. Be optimistic and you won’t walk away disappointed, regretting you didn’t ask for what you really wanted.

4) They’re persistent

Children don’t accept ‘no’ for an answer. If they’re rejected, they’ll persevere by using the broken record technique or by trying a different strategy, such as bargaining or trading. This tenacious approach eventually pays off, as the parent concedes in return for some peace and quiet. It may feel as if you’re nagging, but you’re actually demonstrating a determination for what you need. If your counterpart senses any lack of conviction on your part, they will exploit your position.

5) They make lots of proposals

Children will happily rattle off a number of proposals to get what they want. If one proposal is rejected, they’ll have a number of alternatives to throw back on the table. The more proposals they make, the more chance there is of one of them being accepted. Making proposals puts them in the driving seat. It’s the same in business – the more preparation you put into your proposals the higher the likelihood of success. If you don’t, you’ll constantly be reacting to your counterpart’s requirements and feel out of control.

So, the next time you find yourself in a difficult negotiation situation, do what the kids do – albeit without the tantrums!

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