If you’re looking to up your negotiating game or you want to know how to use mediation to your advantage, this post is for you.  As a lawyer and mediator, I’ve encountered a number of negotiating strategies more likely to lead to successful outcomes and came across my top four.

Mediation is an alternative to going to court to resolve disputes.  The mediator will help the parties reach a negotiated settlement.  The goal of mediation is not to win an argument; it is to achieve a favorable settlement.

Parties who engage in mediation give up their day in court to control their own outcomes in a way that works best for them.  Here are my top 4 negotiating tips to use with or without mediation.

1.        Prepare.

Before mediation – or any negotiation – it’s important to first get clear on what you really need.  Avoid getting locked into a “position,” which typically limits your options when negotiating.

Then identify what you need to know about the other party.  You might make a list of open-ended questions to uncover what the other party needs.

2.        Get the facts.

This is where you can find out the answers to those open-ended questions.  But it’s essential to first build trust with the other party.  Trust is essential before people will open up and reveal their true interests.

The importance of listening to the other party cannot be overstated.  In any negotiation – with or without a mediator – not listening or progressing too quickly to a solution is a big barrier to creating trust.

Generally, before people are willing to settle, they must feel that their interests are truly understood.  You might ask the other party for their suggestions for moving forward to an agreement.

3.        Manage emotions.

In any negotiation or mediation, managing emotions is key to a successful outcome.  While it’s common for negotiations to become frustrating, allowing your emotions to control your decisions can lead to an unfavorable outcome.

4.        Tackle the smaller issues first.

It’s generally best to start the negotiation or mediation with smaller less contentious issues.  Reaching agreement first on those smaller issues first is more likely to create momentum and motivation to resolve the larger issues.

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