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Why Everyday Practice Helps You Achieve Outstanding Results

Roar is a facilitator, advisor, and mediator, and he founded Waegger Negotiation Institute (WNI) in 2017. Up to 2017 has Roar been working as a lawyer with employment and labor law, and he has extensive experience in practical negotiations and long-time influence work.

 
Executive Contributor  Roar Thun Waegger

Negotiation is a vital skill in both personal and professional life, yet many struggle to master it. Why is this? The answer lies in grasping a few essential principles and embracing a structured approach to continuous improvement. This article explores the core challenges that hinder effective negotiation and offers practical, actionable solutions to help you achieve outstanding results.


Man and woman talking inside a business facility

The learning curve: The key to retention and mastery

Hermann Ebbinghaus, a pioneering psychologist, introduced the concept of the learning curve, also known as the forgetting curve. This principle is crucial for anyone looking to master negotiation skills. The learning curve demonstrates that without consistent review and practice, newly acquired knowledge fades rapidly. This is why many individuals find their negotiation skills slipping away over time—they simply aren’t practicing enough.


The learning curve illustrates two vital points

The first point is that repetition is essential. It takes repeated exposure to a new idea for it to become deep-rooted to create change in your behavior. The second point is active engagement. Without active engagement and practice, our memory retention declines sharply. Understanding this curve is the first step toward mastering negotiation. It emphasizes the importance of regular deliberate practice – also named everyday practice.


The secret to negotiation confidence: Practice, practice, practice

To truly excel in negotiation, you need to embrace a mantra of constant practice. This approach, however, presents two primary challenges. First, you need to find the right environment to practice. Real-world negotiations often come with high stakes, making it difficult to practice without consequences. The second challenge is identifying suitable practice partners. Negotiation is a two-way process, requiring a partner to engage in meaningful practice.


Everyday practice: The path to expertise

Integrating everyday practice into daily routine is essential advice I give my clients. The everyday practice focuses on continuous improvement through regular, small adjustments based on feedback from various sources. How about consistently practicing negotiation skills in everyday situations?


Here are some creative examples of how you can incorporate everyday practice into your negotiation practice:


Next time when you arrive at the hotel, use your influence skills to ask for a complimentary room upgrade. Politely mention if you are celebrating a special occasion or simply ask if there are any available upgrades. Here, you use what we call productive questions; "How can we make it happen?". Treat the receptionist as a friend, introduce yourself, use his name, and ask how his day has been. Show you care about them and show understanding for the stress they might have had, or you overheard the last customers' angry complaints. It’s much easier for him to give you something when you treat him nicely.


Another everyday situation might be at the airport, approaching the check-in counter and inquiring about the possibility of an upgrade to business class. Highlight your frequent flyer status or ask if there are any promotions. Much of your same influence skills could be applied here.


A third everyday situation could be with customer service. Negotiate better terms for your cell phone agreement. Explain your dissatisfaction clearly and calmly, suggesting possible solutions. A client of mine did that. He considered his choice of strategy; the traditional grumpy angry customer approach or the nice, understanding, and firm approach. He chose the latter.


After a few days, he received the following email from Customer service; “I have credited both the overuse of mobile data and reduced the termination fee.”


This was luckily not an everyday situation, but a situation you might have experienced too. Next time consider this as your chance to practice negotiation skills in an everyday situation.


Another situation could be when you are shopping: While making a significant purchase, like a new appliance, negotiate a discount or ask for additional perks such as free delivery or extended warranty.


If you are at work: Discuss flexible work hours or negotiate project deadlines with colleagues. Clearly outline your needs, show understanding of theirs, search for new creative options, and offer solutions that benefit both them and you. These situations can come from your daily practice.


Another approach to practicing your negotiation skills is the often challenge of giving and receiving feedback. Seek feedback from colleagues, mentors, or even the other party in your negotiations. Constructive feedback helps you identify areas for improvement and adjust your strategies accordingly. But how? Here you can practice your skills in how to ask for feedback and how to receive it. It could be hard and challenging to how you will react to an appraisal as well as honest feedback when they could see you make some major changes in your delivery. Here are challenging and excellent possibilities to practice the three conversations in one conversation; the What Happened, The Feeling… and The Identity Conversation.


In prolonging the feedback mechanism, you can practice behavioral adjustments. How could you make small, necessary adjustments based on feedback to improve your negotiation style gradually? This could be related to your tone of voice responding to the feedback or your body language. You could also turn this into how you read and understand the emotions others meet you with. What does a surprise or contempt face look like, and what expressions are made? Learn these universal expressions because the one you meet cannot hide them, they come reactively, and you are prepared before they have spoken a single word.


The last element of your practice could be to use this to build relationships. It could be to foster strong working relationships that allow for honest reflection and mutual growth in the future. This can also involve post-negotiation feedback rounds with the other party to identify strengths and areas for improvement. This could be done more systematically when you have ongoing regular negotiations with them.


When you have completed an everyday practice, take a minute and reflect on what you have done well and what you could have done differently. Self-reflection is one of the most important things you can do when you do everyday practice. When there is no one around you to give you feedback, you need to take a short self-reflection to strengthen your learning effect.

 

Everyday training is about more than just repetitive practice; it’s about creating a culture of continuous improvement. Measuring, training, and adjusting daily ensures that small, incremental changes lead to significant results over time.


Engaging in sparring sessions is a practical way to implement everyday training. A client of mine shared how he benefited from our sparring: "Through sparring sessions, I identified my strengths and weaknesses, allowing me to tailor my approach effectively. After a few sessions, I became more confident and achieved better outcomes in negotiations."


Integrating sparring sessions into your routine can provide a dynamic blend of theory and practice. Personalized mentorship, real-time precise feedback, and continuous development through sparring can significantly enhance your negotiation skills, and help you not only become good enough, but great at work. This is deliberate practice.


In his book "Great at Work," management professor at the University of California, Berkeley, Morten T. Hansen, discusses the concept of deliberate practice. It is a highly structured and purposeful form of practice aimed at improving performance to make better outcomes.


It involves focused, goal-oriented activities that are designed to stretch an individual's abilities and are often guided by feedback. This continuous learning and improvement process he calls the "learning loop." The four key components include setting specific goals, obtaining immediate feedback, and continually refining skills through repetition and problem-solving.


The first is to focus on a specific skill. It’s about identifying and concentrating on a particular skill that needs improvement. For example, it could be how to ask smarter questions. The second key is to apply stretch goals. Set challenging yet attainable goals to push beyond current capabilities. The third key will be feedback and reflection. Here you seek immediate and constructive feedback on performance and reflect on the results to identify areas for improvement, and key four will be practice and adjustment. Engage in repeated practice with adjustments based on feedback and reflection, creating a "learning loop” of constant refinement.


Hansen illustrates that this loop of deliberate practice can significantly enhance performance and effectiveness at work when the learning technique is practiced in their daily work. By continually looping through these steps, individuals can make systematic and meaningful improvements in their skills and job performance.


By understanding the learning curve and committing to regular deliberate practice, you can do a lot to overcome the common pitfalls that lead to failed negotiations.


Embrace the journey of continuous improvement

Mastering negotiation is not a destination but a journey. By understanding the learning curve and committing to regular deliberate practice, you can overcome the common pitfalls that hinder many negotiators. Embrace change, adapt strategically, and view every challenge as an opportunity to improve. With dedication and the right support, you can transform your negotiation skills and achieve outstanding results.


The key to success is simple: practice, practice, practice.


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Roar Thun Waegger, Wægger Negotiation Institute

Roar is a facilitator, advisor, and mediator, and he founded Waegger Negotiation Institute (WNI) in 2017. Up to 2017 has Roar been working as a lawyer with employment and labor law, and he has extensive experience in practical negotiations and long-time influence work. With his experience and training from Harvard PON and Pepperdine’s Straus' Institute in negotiation, mediation, and conflict resolution he helps his clients solve their challenges.

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