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The Coach: ‘How can I be a better negotiator?’

Shutterstock negotiation

Careers expert Matthew Turner advises an architect on negotiation best practice 

I run my own practice but I struggle as a negotiator, whether it is with clients on fees, with a consultant about collaboration, or – as was the case recently – confirming a new lease for my studio. Are there any basics I should know about how best to approach negotiation? 

Matthew turner

Negotiation is vital to business success, and I feel many architects have an innate capacity for it no matter how challenging the negotiation may seem. However, if that isn’t you, then you can learn, and it is really good that you have identified this area for improvement.

Successful negotiation involves good interpersonal and communication skills deployed to close deals, improve relationships with collaborators, sustain competitive advantage or manage conflicts effectively. 

Preparation is key to most negotiating success. The more prepared you are, the more likely it is you will reach a result that is acceptable to all parties. 

Power is always on the side of the person with the best information

Firstly, make sure you know about the context and the finances. You need to know about the product or service, the competition and the person with whom you will be negotiating. Remember that the power is always on the side of the person with the best information. 

Secondly, think about the negotiation process from the beginning to the end, and be fully prepared for a range of eventualities.

Good negotiators are normally very patient. They focus mainly on getting agreement on all the parts that the two parties have in common before they go on to seek acceptable ways to settle the other issues.

Negotiators have the ability to listen attentively to the other party, and read between the lines. Active listening includes the ability to read body language as well as verbal communication. Instead of spending most of the time in negotiation defending a viewpoint, the experienced negotiator will spend more time listening to the other party and find clues for further debate.

Frequently, an impasse is reached and problem-solving is required. So instead of concentrating doggedly on your desired goal, at this stage focus on partial compromise and win-wins that avoid the breakdown in communication, and benefit both sides.

Perhaps most importantly, keep emotions in control. Negotiating on sensitive issues can be frustrating and by allowing emotions to take control, you can increase the chance of negative results. Be aware that a skilled negotiator will often use emotions as an effective tool, deploying a certain amount of bluster that works on the emotions of the other party, and leads to gaining the upper hand.

AJ coach Matthew Turner is an architect and careers consultant who runs the Building on Architecture consultancy. To contact him with your questions, tweet @TheAJcoach or email him in confidence at hello@buildingonarchitecture.com 


Readers' comments (2)

  • Excellent short piece. I have said for years that architects are not taught anything about one of the keys to a successful practice - the art of negotiating. I took a young partner with me to a fee negotiation and on leaving he said "the secret of negotiating is splitting the difference 50-50.
    Not so - its when you suggest splitting the difference. Also silence is a very powerful negotiating weapon when you reach an impasse. Hold your nerve and the other side will break the silence and make an offer. Owen Luder CBE PPRIBA

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  • Best thing is to read this book.... https://www.amazon.co.uk/Getting-Yes-Negotiating-agreement-without/dp/1847940935

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