Giving Feedback after a Negotiation

by Steve Jones |

“How to give feedback after negotiating?” Not always an easy skill to get right, so we thought you would like to know Steve Jones’ personal top 7 points on how to give feedback.

Time to have an article dealing with something people ask us about a lot, “How to give feedback after a negotiation?” Not always an easy subject and one we always invest time into. With this in mind we thought you would like to know Steve Jones’ top 7 points on how to offer feedback.

1. Give the feedback immediately after the negotiation has finished. It’s proven far easier for people to take in feedback immediately after the event – while it is still fresh in their minds.

2. People are not their behaviours! Describe what you have seen rather than labeling people as their behaviour. For instance, “the way you point your finger may be interpreted as aggressive” – rather than “you were very aggressive”. Negotiators can do little about your feelings or summaries, but can do a great deal when you put specific behaviours under the lens.

3. Get the negotiator to initially focus on what they have done well during the negotiation. Under no circumstances allow them to start to discuss the improvement areas or mistakes that they have made. It is absolutely critical for building negotiation competency that people acknowledge what they have done well. This will go far to building their confidence.

If they are self-deprecating or refuse to identify positive points, you should step in and give them your feedback, rather than letting them dwell on their own criticism. You must also make sure that they have acknowledged your positive feedback and not dismissed it. (If you feel they are dismissing it, you may want to ask them to paraphrase it back to you or ask them a question, e.g. “How did you know to…?” or “Where did you learn to…?” We find this works very well).

4. Be specific – use specific examples of both dialogue and behaviour to explain your points – this means you need to note exactly what they say or do during the negotiation. So keep a pen and some paper handy during the negotiation, and schedule enough time during your negotiation breaks to use your time constructively.

5. Resist passing on your own style or prejudices – explain what the current best practice thinking is – don’t tell them how you would have handled the situation. (This is not an opportunity for you to demonstrate how great you are!) If there are other people in the negotiation, you may want to ask them for feedback, but do not allow it to be uncontrolled. We have observed some training courses when people have been allowed to give uncontrolled feedback to negotiators which apart from being destructive, in some cases was also plain wrong! You must control the feedback and when possible ensure it is used positively by all involved.

6. When you give the negotiator feedback on improvement areas, make sure this is phrased positively – not “you didn’t do this very well” but more like, “you could improve this by…”. ‘Constructive not destructive,’ is the golden rule when giving feedback. So rather than criticise their behaviour, ensure you follow up with either a question on what they think would have been more beneficial, or offer one or more suggestions yourself. So instead of criticising, ask questions and offer suggestions.

7. There are three areas that need to be reviewed after most negotiations – the first is the behaviours during the negotiation, the second is the outcome of the negotiation, the third is the processes, tool sets, strategies and tactics employed.

  • For building capability, it is critical that the emphasis you give is more on the behaviour than the outcome. The behaviour is the lead indicator – doing the right things right gets you better results more often. (Although unusual behaviours are also sometimes very effective – the subject of other articles).
  • The outcome is a lag indicator, and is usually as a result of the behaviour. The competency of the other party massively affects your outcomes. If for instance I negotiate with you and I am very aggressive, and you are timid, my behaviour is likely to be effective. If on the other hand you are as aggressive as I am the negotiation is likely to end up in unproductive deadlock – so aggressive behaviour is not consistently effective. It is naive not to discuss outcomes in detail in real life negotiations, but in simulations or exercises the outcome should not be focussed on – although it is seductive to get drawn into conversation about the outcome. The result of too much outcome focus is often low appetite for risk, and side-stepping responsibility.
  • Taking a step out of the behaviours can be useful to observe whether your processes were profitably followed, your tool sets effectively used, your strategies adhered to, and your tactics effectively employed. This of course requires that your team prepare effectively, else you won’t have a yardstick against which to compare your performance.

Team negotiations are more often reviewed as compared with individual negotiations. Having a colleague offer advice can be invaluable. Some clients will bring a senior executive into the negotiations and wisely have the senior take a back seat role. Why? The senior executive’s sole purpose is to coach the negotiator or negotiators after the negotiation.

If you’re negotiating on your own, some aspects of feedback are not possible. We strongly urge you to have the discipline to review your own negotiations as a matter of good habit. It’s no mistake that star athletes regularly review their own performance and set themselves goals. When successful enough, star athletes enjoy a coaches sage feedback. So who do you think would be your best negotiation coaches?