An Estate Agent's guide to arguing*

*So technically we're talking about negotiating - but arguing made for a punchier title.

We all negotiate for a living.

When I was selling I used to tell my wife I wouldn't negotiate with her because it wouldn’t be fair to my paying clients. Somehow we're still married.

Practice makes progress. What this means is over time, you learn a lot about what works and what doesn't in your negotiations.

Here are a few key principles gleaned from many conversations in the middle of two parties trying to move home.

1) Don't obsess over being right and don't make it about winning

If you try to win every single point of contention your reward will only ever be the chance to have the same conversation again and again. If your only focus for yourself or your client is to "win", no one wins. Fact.

Shoot for fair resolution rather than full satisfaction.

Explain to both parties that it's okay to concede once in a while.

If you've hit a wall, ask each party which is more important: having their perspective validated and the gratification of being right? Or actually getting what they want?

Which is more important: the feeling that you won the argument negotiation or moving home?

People don't negotiate like an agent does day in day out. Don't take your skills or your experience for granted.

Make sure they know it's okay to concede the small game to win the big one.

2) Keep the discussion focused on the topic at hand

This prevents "they want to move in when!?" from spiraling into "why are we even dealing with these people in the first place, they don't even DESERVE our place." (I hope it doesn't get that bad)

Keep your negotiations focused on one point at a time; if you're talking price, stay on price.

Completion date? Keep it there.

Don’t let the conversation move away from where it started and start talking new (or worse, old and agreed) points. It's not.

It's inexperienced and unskilled. Remember that you are neither.

3) Please (please!), don't entertain any negotiation point over things that cannot be changed

Can you change road laws so buses don't use the road the home is on? What about changing flight paths? Stop these immovable points the moment they're raised.

Traffic noise, or commute time, no matter how much someone may think it matters (to them), is not a point of negotiation.

Negotiations must focus on common problems to find common solutions.

So don't get into arguments (because that's what they'll become) over things that can only be resolved with a magic wand.

So what should you do if things turn tense?

Before you open your mouth to either party, put yourself in their shoes. What's motivating them to hold things up? And what's brought them to this point in the first place.

Your goal here is to remind them of their own motivations. Your job is to help clear the fog.

Once that's done, it's much easier to offer advice that actually gets heard.

Bringing it all together...

Negotiating is about understanding, not avoiding, conflict and working to find a common resolution.

Don't immediately counter the arguments you hear. First understand where why they're arguing in the first place.

Then communicate these concerns or uncertainties clearly with both sides.

The more understanding, the more agreement.

Create empathy between the parties and your tough negotiations will be successful more often than not.