Guidelines for developing successful negotiation skills

June 18, 2013
Negotiation leads to desirable outcomes
As dental assistants, whether in the workplace, while performing daily responsibilities, or participating in volunteer or salaried activities, we often use negotiating skills to achieve positive outcomes. Negotiating skills may be very useful in facilitating conflict resolution before issues escalate into major problems or even legal action.
The negotiation process can be a positive experience as long as some basic principles are followed. It is important for the parties involved to agree to negotiate in an environment free of coercion and manipulation. Discussing factors honestly offers critical insight into varying opinions, feelings, priorities, and viewpoints. All participants must agree to abide by the process outlined and must actively listen to each person’s comments while speaking, as each individual will have the opportunity to provide comments and feedback in an orderly fashion.

During formal negotiations, the guidelines for the process need to be clearly defined before dialogue begins. By establishing ground rules, an orderly procedure to come to a palatable resolution will be assured. The designated protocol is followed so all involved have the opportunity to speak. It is normally helpful to use an impartial individual as an arbitrator to moderate the discussion.

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When using the negotiation process, the environment must be free from outside disturbance, there must be ample time for discussion so that all viewpoints may be expressed, and “parroting,” or repeating what has been said, should be used to verify and fully understand what others are saying. Consider your expectations for yourself and the other party. Employ factors that facilitate effective communication. Spend time alone prior to negotiating to define, clarify, and note important factors before sharing them with others. It is important to confine comments to facts rather than opinion.

It is very helpful to enter the negotiation process with a willingness to learn. As we all come from varying backgrounds and hold different perspectives on many issues, we must value and have regard for the other party and respect their viewpoints. All confidences must be respected. Each member involved in the process must agree to a shared responsibility for building and maintaining the agreement. Each must have a sincere commitment to change and a willingness to resolve the issue. Each must keep in mind that the resolution may not be exactly what was envisioned. Therefore, all participants must be willing to compromise to affect a positive result. Coming into the process, it is critical to have a positive view of the relationship with the individuals involved. Each must assume responsibility for successful negotiation and work toward establishing an environment of trust, respect, and understanding.

A willingness to listen and the ability to respond impartially are important tools in negotiation. The ability to influence others is the power to affect change and achieve a positive outcome that is acceptable to all. Should issues of conflict arise, initiate negotiation strategies rather than postpone action. By prudently employing these simple measures to resolve issues, there is a better chance that conflict situations may be resolved amicably before they become more serious in nature.


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