Most parents will agree that kids seem to have a knack for choosing inopportune times to ask for things – usually when you’re on the phone, or in the middle of an important conversation! We did that too. If only we knew that the chance of getting what we ask for would increase dramatically if we just asked at the right time.
The same is true for negotiations - we often forget about that little fact. We pick times that are convenient for us, or when we think of it, rather than picking a time that works. Here are some tips on picking the best time to get into a negotiation:
1. When no one is rushed. Some negotiation experts suggest catching your party off-guard, so as to increase your personal leverage. Surprise attacks work great in water balloon fights, but that’s not what we’re going for here. We're looking for a time when everyone’s comfortable and ready. This may require putting off discussions for a while, could be days or even weeks, which can be uncomfortable. If you’re the type who likes to resolve things immediately, remind yourself that you can use the time to brainstorm creative solutions and otherwise prepare for the discussion.
2. When you’ve done your homework. As suggested in the previous principle, you should have a good idea of your desired outcome before you start negotiating. Otherwise, you are at a disadvantage and could end up making poor decisions. What you may think is the real issue may turn out to be a side point that you’d willingly concede in favour of your true desires. You won’t know until you spend some time thinking about it.
3. When something can still be done about the issue. Negotiating with a neighbour about not cutting down the tree on your shared property line isn’t going to do much good if the chainsaw has already bitten into the trunk. Issues are better dealt with before they come to a head.
4. When everyone is calm. The tendency may be to jump into it with both feet when conflict arises, but that’s rarely productive. The best negotiations take place when all parties are calm and can respond unemotionally. If anyone starts feeling too overwhelmed, defensive, or distraught during the discussion, take a breather and return to the conversation when emotions have cooled.
5. When you’re ready to make some changes. With most negotiations, the outcome is that one or both parties will be required to make some changes in behaviour – coming home earlier, giving up something (money, time, resources), etc. If you are just not ready to abide by the terms of the decision, whatever it may be, it’s not a good time to have that particular discussion.
After you’ve done your background homework and selected an appropriate time to have your conversation, you’ll find that things flow much more smoothly for everyone! And you'll be glad you waited for the right time!