Stand your ground in the negotiation room.

Whether you are an artist, a freelancer, an executive, or part of a Fortune 500 company, having sharpened negotiation skills is important for your career. Training in the art of negotiation creates a broader path on the road to financial and professional success. You may be negotiating a million-dollar contract, an improved benefits package, or even with your toddler over fashion choices. No matter what you're discussing, practicing a few techniques can help you navigate smoothly through even the toughest negotiators. You know the kind — a senior colleague with direct influence over your well-being who is infamously difficult or inflexible. Below are seven tips for navigating the twists and turns of a tough negotiation.

1.  Know exactly what you want

It may seem like a no-brainer, but too often an individual goes into a negotiation without a concrete and clear understanding of what exactly he or she wants and why. Not only is it important to have a rock-solid picture of what you want, but you also need to know the boundaries within which you will or won't settle. Remember that you might not win every negotiation, and it's important to know when to keep talking and when to walk away. Knowing exactly what your desired result is will help you make better choices along the way to arrive at the utmost favorable conclusion.

2.  Do your homework

Possibly the most important part of negotiating is understanding both the value of what you have to offer and the perceived value of what you are asking for in return. If you are negotiating a raise, you will want to demonstrate what your worth is to the company and why it is in their best interest to give you that raise. If you want to negotiate a decrease in rent or a service contract, you will need to have facts, figures, and statistics on hand to demonstrate why it is in the best interests of such affiliates and stakeholders. Remember, you are always trying to create a win-win, so it's important that you demonstrate how what you are seeking is the best for both parties.

3.  Place yourself in their shoes

Many times we think we know what others want, when in reality we do not. Great negotiators do their best to create win-win situations, but doing so involves knowing what the other person or party hopes to achieve and why. Don't make the mistake of assuming you know what the other person wants until you take the time to consider their perspective, position, experience, and reputation. Practice empathy. Not everyone is going to be upfront and honest about what they want, but considering what you know or have been told about someone else can point towards a clearer picture of the reasoning behind their tactics. Being able to understand someone else's situation will enhance your communication and potentially help steer toward the fairest, most equitable outcome. Even the toughest negotiators can be broken by shared humanity — it's tougher to keep a rigid exterior when someone is actively showing understanding and empathy for another's viewpoint.

4.  Aim for a win-win situation

This is a natural extension of showing empathy for your partner's perspective. Once you know what both you and the other person or party want, you can begin the process of reaching a fair outcome. This is not foolproof, however. Many times hardball negotiators will hide their true intentions in an effort to get you to accept less so they can come out on top. This is where it becomes highly important for you to understand your own bottom line and what you will and will not accept. Don't be afraid to be explicit in this regard. There is nothing wrong with saying “I have a need for [goal and reason]. You have a need for [goal] for what I think is [reason]. What can we do to meet each other part way?” Unfortunately, in some situations, making your case and attempting to create an understanding connection doesn't succeed, and you may need to simply walk away from the negotiating table until the other party is willing to make some concessions.

5.  Be direct

A negotiating party will not always respond to warm interpersonal efforts. If you're dealing with a negotiator leaning towards the extreme end of the difficulty spectrum, it might be time to employ your own tough tactics. Being assertive could potentially earn you more respect. Keep in mind though, that you should always remain calm and respectful while expressing your needs explicitly. In certain scenarios, it is acceptable to tell someone that their behavior is unacceptable and that you will not budge to controlling, manipulative tactics. You might be surprised at the response you get when you prioritize self-respect first.

Related: Use Your Words to Get What You Want (at Work)

6.  Don't lose your cool

Tough negotiators can mobilize many tactics to push your buttons and put you off your game. It's your job to make sure they don't succeed. Whether their tactic is to make you doubt your value to the company, break your focus, or incite you to act and react emotionally, it's important to maintain a calm, cool, and collected demeanor. There is nothing wrong with asking to take a break and “walking a lap” to cool down if you feel the atmosphere getting heated. Remember, you cannot control their behavior or tactics, but you can control your own. A cool head will always get you a better outcome than an emotional reaction will.

7.  Know when it's time to walk away

Ultimately, there are going to be people in this world with whom you cannot negotiate. Sometimes, a person might just want to see how far they can push you before you walk away. Always enter circumstances knowing where your "hard line" is. Sometimes, walking away will put a lid on negotiations. In other instances, however, it will communicate that you are not someone easily taken advantage of and negotiations may not only resume but also go much more smoothly.

Peaceful but firm negotiation tactics do not come easily for everyone. Don't be afraid to practice these tips in front of a mirror or with a friendly partner to help you feel well-prepared. Confidence and assertion take practice, but they are skills more than worth their effort. Good luck!

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