Everybody finds themselves engaged in various kinds of negotiations every day. So why is it that your “batting average” can sometimes be so bad even though negotiating is something you do often?

Here are principles I follow to improve my “batting average”:

Be cooperative instead of adversarial

You have absolutely no control over how others behave towards you during a negotiation, but you do have control over how you respond to them.

Instead of going into “fight” mode, you should tell yourself to focus on the following:

* Solving the problem. Always look to find and reach a mutually acceptable agreement. The best way to do this is to attempt to understand the reasons behind the other party’s behaviour.

* Understanding the other party’s point of view. Try to see the same problem from their perspective. Too often, people tend to look at issues from their own perspectives.

* Respecting others. If you treat the other party like an adversary, they will likely return the “favour”. Treat them with dignity and they will reciprocate. Take the lead and be the first to show some respect.

Listen and listen some more

People tend to trust those who pay attention. Therefore, to gain trust, you should do more of the following:

* Practising the 70/30 rule. Listen 70 per cent of the time, and talk only 30 per cent of the time. Remind yourself of this rule before you step into your next negotiation.

* Seeking clarification. When you speak, ask questions. These should be open-ended questions that will lead the other party to tell you more.

* Acknowledging their position. When the other party disagrees with you, simply acknowledge their position. This does not mean you agree with them, but it demonstrates that you are giving them “face”, and an opportunity to state your own position.

Explore options to reach a mutual agreement

It will help tremendously if you can be more “creative” in finding options that are acceptable to both the negotiating parties, and that meet their needs and interests as well.

Here’s what I mean:

* Expanding the pie. Do not limit yourself to what is on the table because if you expand the scope of the negotiation, more is at stake, and everyone will be forced to re-evaluate their initial positions.

* Brainstorming for outcomes. When both parties are actively collaborating on this, the likelihood of reaching an agreement is a lot higher. One way to start the ball rolling will be to use these phrases — “What if we try this?” or “How about doing it this way?” — before you put forth your suggestions.

* Finding an agreement. The more issues both parties can agree on, the more productive the negotiation. Starting with the smaller issues and leaving the larger ones to the end will result in the building of a relationship; hence, neither party will want to see the negotiation fail.

For more successful negotiations, learn and apply these principles in your future negotiations — whether they are of a personal nature or work-related.