I used to define negotiation as that arduous battle of wills between two parties that was best illustrated by my least favorite activity in the world…buying a car.  That was until I became a parent and realized that negotiation is part of my everyday life.

For those of you who have spent any amount of time with the tiny terrors known as toddlers, you know what I mean.  After spending the better part of days convincing my son to wear shirts with buttons, eat something that he’s eaten a thousand times before but now won’t eat or that the sky is, in fact, blue, I realized that I was going to have to hone my negotiation skills if we were both going to survive.

As an internal auditor, we negotiate all the time. Such strategies include:

  • Understand Your End Game – It’s hard to understand the innerworkings of the mind of a child. Therefore, it’s important to use your intellectual curiosity to ask open-ended questions and understand what the negotiation is all about.  As an internal auditor, I need to ask thoughtful questions to understand the other party’s goals or point of view.  It’s equally important that I’m actively listening so we can create a mutually agreeable solution.
  • Keep Calm and Negotiate On – It’s easy to lose your cool when you’re negotiating with your child for the 1,000th time in a day but nothing good will come from that. The same is true for negotiating in business.  Take time to cool down before proceeding.  You will find that if you can remain calm, there’s an increased likelihood that the other party will also remain calm (unless your negotiating with a three year old…there’s just no reasoning with a three year old).
  • Be Prepared – This is hard to do when negotiating with a child because you never know what will trigger a negotiation. However, I have prepared myself for the types of negotiations he might throw at me.  The more prepared you are, the better off you will be.  You can more effectively articulate your point of view and can begin to think though what compromises you’re willing to make.
  • Teamwork Makes the Dream Work – I often try to collaborate with my son to get to the right answer. I find that when he’s part of the solution, he feels like he’s in control (which is mostly what negotiation with a child is all about).  As an internal auditor, whether I’m negotiating an audit finding or the scope of an audit, collaborating with the business is critical to the overall success of the negotiation.
  • Choose Your Battles Wisely – As a parent, I consider why I’m saying no. Letting my son wear the same outfit twice in one week has different consequences to him not holding my hand in a parking lot.  The same is true when negotiating as an internal auditor.  Is the issue black and white or are there shades of gray?  It is important to understand where you can bend and where you can’t.  For issues where you can’t bend, it’s important to communicate early in the negotiation and explain why.

Remember that negotiating doesn’t mean that you’re arguing or giving in.  It means that you’re working together to come to an equally acceptable result.  Each positive experience in negotiation strengthens the trust and rapport needed to further solidify your role as a trusted advisor, whether it’s with your auditee or your child.