What Did You Say? The Importance of Active Listening in Business Negotiations

Posted on: September 7th, 2017

business negotiationsA business seller meets with her selected buyer, who has reached a negotiating impasse with the seller’s lawyer.

The owner sets the appointment, tells the buyer to be there on time, and upon arriving late to the meeting she scheduled, begins with, “I need you to get over your entrenched position…” and goes on to illustrate many troublesome reasons why the buyer’s negotiating posture is endangering the viability of the deal and the future of the company.

The buyer feels unheard and unappreciated as he attempts to negotiate terms. The conversation, fueled by tension and frustration, accelerates. The two resolve nothing and the deal impasse continues. With active listening and empathetic responses, this meeting could have been successful for both parties.

Active listening in business negotiations is an opportunity to gather information that will guide you to the best possible outcome. Replying in a way that shows your ability to understand and share your perspective with associates will make difficult conversations easier, more productive, and satisfying.

Rather than jumping to the end goal and stating how you would like the negotiation to conclude, use these communications as a learning opportunity. Before you begin to ask, “Why” or forcefully state your stance, try active listening.

How to actively listen:

  • Maintain eye contact and wait for your opportunity to speak
  • Show your interest by not picking up your phone or multitasking
  • Reiterate what the other person has communicated in order to demonstrate your understanding
  • Ask questions for clarification if you don’t understand
  • Steer away from “Why” questions

How to respond empathetically:

  • Responding to another person includes acting with respect i.e. be on time, be aware of your body language, take the time to look nice for the meeting, etc.
  • As they speak, identify their emotions toward the subject, if you can’t identify this on your own then ask how they feel
  • When you respond, you can say things like, “I know you are passionate about this …” to let them know they are being heard beyond just the words they are saying

Before being understood, seek to understand. The way in which you both listen and respond is not only to benefit the other party. Listen, learn, and be empathetic, it will get you further in your negotiations.