“Negotiating is an ancient craft, a delicate mix of art and science, style and substance. It prizes intuition as highly as intellect, good sense as much as hard numbers. It requires emotional detachment and a high aspiration level. It can be a game of power, real as well as imagined. Some people play the game masterfully while others only dimly understand it.”

Jim Murray

Successful negotiators have the necessary knowledge, experience and skills to navigate the negotiation process and all of its rules, rituals, strategies and tactics in a way that achieves mutually acceptable results. They also often negotiate in a manner that enhances the relationship they have with their counterparts.

However, as a negotiator you need more than rules and rituals to get good results. You need important personal characteristics (key attributes and traits) that you either come by naturally or that you learn through the school of hard knocks. My top 6 skills for successful conflict resolution are:

  1. Mindfulness

The greatest characteristic or skill you can possess for conflict resolution is mindfulness. Mindfulness can be defined as:

“The practice of maintaining a non-judgmental state of heightened or complete awareness of one’s thoughts, emotions, or experiences on a moment-to-moment basis.”

The evidence suggests that learning to pay attention may be the most important skill we will ever learn. Mindfulness is a mental discipline involving training attention. However, mindfulness is more than learning to pay attention – it also implies cultivating an attitude of openness, interest and acceptance.

  1. Preparation and planning skills

As General Dwight Eisenhower said: “Plans are worthless but planning is everything.”

Great negotiators know that everything that can go wrong just might. Negotiation is a dynamic process with numerous moving parts, all of which are negotiable. They expect the unexpected and prepare accordingly.

  1. Cool cognitive skills

This involves the ability to think clearly under pressure when dealing with uncertainty. Parties need assistance with cool cognition versus hot emotions and impulses.  Psychologists characterise willpower or self‑control in part as the ability to employ a cool cognitive system of behaviour, rather than a hot emotional system.  Our cool system is essentially a thinking system incorporating knowledge about sensations, feelings, actions and goals.  While the cool system is reflective, the hot system is impulsive and emotional.

  1. Great communication skills

Listening and talking. The root cause of many disputes is a lack of communication leading to judgments and assumptions about the motives of others. Failure to communicate effectively is a fundamental barrier to effective negotiation.

Building connections with people is a difficult but necessary part of having better conversations. This is often referred to as “establishing rapport”, but that term may suggest an element of artificiality that is not present when there is genuine connection.

  1. Hard work and persistence

The advantage always goes to the patient negotiator who persistently pursues creative solutions. Negotiation is a complex process that takes time. Progress usually comes in small increments.

Impatient negotiators who lack persistence often leave potential results on the table and make costly mistakes. The most successful and effective negotiators are the most creative. Good solutions eventually come to those with the patience to wait for them, the persistence to work for them and the desire to produce innovative results.

  1. Integrity and the ability to build good relationships (connection)

Making an authentic connection is the ultimate tool for achieving results with other people.

Brene Brown defines connection as:

“The energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.”