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A great negotiator is a great improviser too!

Updated: Aug 19, 2021

Harvey Mackay once famously quoted, “You do not get what you want, you get what you

negotiate.” This line isn’t just limited to our careers or huge business ventures, but to everything that happens in life. Whether you are negotiating on something as small as your mother allowing you to hang out with your friends, by promising her that you’ll clean your room afterward, or with your boss for a paid leave, listing out all the major projects and crisis’s you handled in the recent past. We are always in an endless loop of agreements and disagreements with people, trying to find common grounds and ways to get what we want while sometimes offering them things in return that they cannot resist, trying to make others understand why something is so important to you, building relationships through communication on the way and also thinking of alternatives when there’s a conflict. This is what life is and finding the correct balance between

the position you wish to be in and recognizing why we want it makes all the difference!

The fourth session of our Led By journey, despite being short and crisp, was informative in every sense. The best part about every session we have here is the inculcation of the feedback the fellows provide and the respect for every individual’s time and suggestions. This week was even more anticipated as it included the kickstart of The Dream Trust, which is a group exercise wherein the president of the group discusses a professional or academic challenge they’re facing and together the group brainstorms their way to come to solutions and advice related to the problem. But why is this activity a good addition? It’s because the fellows, being from different educational and geographical backgrounds from all over India, have had unique experiences of their own and having such a diverse range of personalities and opinions which helps gauge the problem at hand from different perspectives. Having like-minded people is always a more comfortable choice, but only after being open to varying ideas does a person really come to an aware decision. After a 45-minute-long discussion in separate breakout rooms with our

respective teams, we did come to some fruitful conclusions and learnings.

Then began the workshop we were extremely hyped about because the facilitators were two accomplished women, Djeneba Gory (Social Entrepreneur, Harvard Kennedy MBA Alumnus) and Aysha Valery (Harvard MPP Alumnus, Lawyer working on conflict resolution). Their accomplishments are so huge that my words alone wouldn’t do justice. Taking turns, they introduced us to the basics of negotiation and conflict resolution. Emphasizing the 7-element framework of negotiation, we delved into how effective Communication can be helpful in building strong relationships, and by working together to reduce external barriers, listening and reflecting upon what others have to say can remove misunderstandings altogether. Relationships involve making concessions, especially for the ones we anticipate to be long-term. Making

gestures for people, accepting when you’re wrong, but not overdoing it to the point where others start walking over you, and not responding when you or the other person is in a negative headspace can work wonders. Knowing your interests and understanding your current position is the crux to negotiating well. Asking someone why they have a certain opinion and explaining why you have yours are necessary for knowing how both parties can benefit out of a certain situation to the fullest. However, when you negotiate, exploring all your options and setting up healthy standards and boundaries is crucial too. Sometimes being assertive to a certain extent cannot hurt either! Reaching agreements, making sure that you and the others are on the same page should always be a priority. Commitments, being aware of alternatives if things do not work according to the initial plan, are all habits of successful and good negotiators.

The examples that they discussed really got me thinking of situations where I was stuck between what I wanted and what others expected of me. Convincing people isn’t always as easy as it following a set of rules. Coming to think of it, there are situations where closer introspection could make you change your mind to an extent too! The trick is to have an open yet firm mind, but also be prepared to take challenges and make amendments on the way. Personal or professional, a smart negotiator never quits until they get a good bargain!


Naaima Suroor is a Led By Fellow. She is currently pursuing Masters of Technology in Artificial Intelligence (CS) from Indira Gandhi Delhi Technical University for Women (IGDTUW)

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