Good negotiators act like detectives. They dig for information and hear every word.
When it's their turn to talk, savvy negotiators don't ramble. They know that if they indulge in monologues, others will grow impatient and possibly turn hostile. They also don't want to reveal too much about their position for fear of undermining their leverage.
If you're attempting to help an employee resolve a problem, devote the first few minutes of the conversation to listening without judgment. Let the worker share concerns, complain a little and even cast blame at everyone else (rather than take any personal responsibility for the problem, which is what you'd prefer).
You might feel the urge to say, "Hold on! Your complaints seem unfair." But keep quiet—for now.
Ask yourself, "What pressures do my employees face?" Imagine how these individuals see the situation and what fears or anxieties loom largest in their mind.
Beware of dwelling on your problems or your own perceived lack of leverage when you negotiate. You're better off thinking about what it will take for the other person to agree with you.
If you're preoccupied with retaining a top-producing employee, for example, you might begin a disciplinary meeting as if you're walking on eggshells. Rather than clearly express your concerns for fear of stoking a conflict with the employee, you might speak in riddles and wind up sowing confusion.
Test yourself by monitoring your comments. The more you affirm what others say and summarize what they tell you to demonstrate your understanding, the better.