7 of the Best Negotiation Training Tips I Wish I’d Known in College

7 of the Best Negotiation Training Tips I Wish I’d Known in College
  • Opening Intro -

    Once they leave college, students face many new situations that demand negotiation skills.

    Most new graduates are not equipped to handle negotiations, and I was no exception.

    Since graduation, I've picked up a few essential negotiation tips I wish I'd known while in college.


Being able to negotiate in college and beyond can make the difference between success and failure. If your college offers an extracurricular class in negotiation, take advantage of this by signing up. If your funds allow (or if you can get a student discount), you could also take a negotiation skills course. Both options are great ways to hone your skills. Alternatively, the seven tips that follow can set you on the path to negotiation mastery.

Research and Prepare

As a student, you’ll know how tiresome too much research can be. Yet, for a positive outcome it’s important to put in the time and effort to learn all you can about the agreement you’re pursuing.

It’s useful to know who you’ll be dealing with. What position do they hold? Are they a lecturer, a fellow student, or someone else? What is their personality type? Your answers to these questions will determine your best chance of connecting with the person.

Apart from researching personalities, it pays to:

  • Know the inherent risks associated with this agreement. Will taking an extra course overwhelm your study schedules?
  • Work out how your proposal fits best in reducing the risks. Will asking your study group leader to assign separate tasks to group members result in quicker assignment results?
  • Identify the most critical components of the agreement. What are the must-haves? Are your study group members willing to stay up late to hand in assignments on time?
  • Determine any special interests. What are the personal preferences for those involved? What extra benefit can you offer to sweeten the deal? Say, if you’re a member of a college sports team, is every member up for weekend practice or do they prefer social activities?

Ask and You May Receive

Most college students are still unsure of their place in the world. Sometimes, being unsure translates to a fear of asking for what you want. Successful negotiators know what they want and aren’t afraid to ask for it.

Practice asking for what you want without getting angry or anxious. Organize your friends into groups and practice some negotiation role-playing.
Don’t submit to the first sign of rejection. Handling objections is one of the key skills of a successful negotiator. When disagreements arise, don’t go on the defensive. Instead, stay curious to try to understand the other person’s objections.

Look at your offer from the other person’s point of view. Validate the other person’s concerns and reframe your offer to correct any misinformation or missing information. For instance, you may be the sports captain deciding to bench one of your star players. The player might feel offended and challenge your decision. By explaining that you’re simply resting the player for the next more important match, you might ease tensions.

Nurture Active Listening

College students often feel energized and are bursting with ideas. There’s a sense of impatience as you want to achieve so much in as little time as possible. Yet, listening is one skill where patience pays off.

Try active listening to gather information. Through asking guided questions and paying attention to the responses, you can better connect with the other person. Active listening requires:

  • Paying close attention to words and nonverbal cues.
  • Showing empathy and interest.
  • Asking open-ended questions to allow the other person to reveal more information, feelings, and attitudes.
  • Using effective pauses to give others the chance to weigh in on the conversation.
  • Repeating back what others are saying to show that you understand.

Focus on the Other Person’s Pressures

Whether it’s asking your course lecturer to extend a deadline or asking your roommate to finish their chores, negotiations can be high pressured. Inexperienced negotiators often focus on why they need to make the deal. Skilled negotiators know to focus more on the other person’s pressures.

What does the other person risk losing if the deal doesn’t work out? For the lecturer, it may be a fear of having a high quota of failing students on their course. For the roommate, they may not want to lose a roommate who takes half the chores. Once you discover the other person’s pressures, you can work the conversation to your advantage.

Go for the Win-Win

Even as you look into the other person’s pressures, seek solutions that meet both sides’ needs. Do not exploit the other person’s fears to force them into a decision that doesn’t meet their needs.

Try to understand the other person’s position, then show them how your solution can satisfy their needs. Negotiations are about relationship-building. If the other person feels you’re looking out for them, they might feel more inclined to meet your needs.

Satisfying others’ needs doesn’t mean giving in to all their demands. You can give the other person what they need without bending over backward to please them. Make sacrifices only when necessary.

For each concession you make, claim equal or higher value. For instance, if the roommate will only clean up a few days of the week, tell the roommate that they can’t have guests over on as many days so the space is more manageable. For a sociable student, the threat of this new rule might just be the push they need to pitch in more with the chores.

Don’t Take It Personally

Your ideas will often face objections and opposition. Facing objections can lead to negative feelings of anxiety and resentment. Too often, people get sidetracked with side issues that have nothing to do with the discussion at hand.

Avoid obsessing over personalities and issues not directly related to the situation. If someone is acting arrogant or dismissive, try and understand what drives their behavior.

other valuable tips:

Have a Plan B and C

One of the top rules for negotiations is to avoid walking into a discussion without options. When you’re researching and preparing, think of alternatives that you can pursue if the current deal fails.

Don’t depend too much on this one deal having a positive outcome. Without alternatives, you may make desperate concessions. You may end up agreeing to terms that can hurt your position. You can lose your ability to say NO.

Expert negotiators recommend having at least one best alternative to a negotiated agreement (BATNA). If negotiations fail, be ready to walk away and pursue alternatives.

Negotiations Beyond College

These tips could guide your course and career choices in college. You can also use these tips to make your personal life and life outside college more comfortable. For example, you can use these skills to negotiate better lease terms with your off-campus landlord. Practice your negotiation skills, as they might prove critical in landing the perfect job or earning a high salary.

Image Credit: negotiation training tips by Pixabay

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