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Listening

The receiving, retaining and processing of information or ideas
This skill is all about being able to effectively receive information - whether it comes from customers, colleagues or stakeholders.

Initially, the skill steps concentrate on being able to listen effectively to others - including remembering short instructions, understanding why others are communication and recording important information.

Individuals then focus on how they demonstrate that they are listening effectively, thinking about body language, open questioning and summarising and rephrasing.

Beyond that, the focus is on being aware of how they might be being influenced by a speaker, through tone and language.

The final steps are about critical listening - comparing perspectives, identifying biases, evaluating ideas and being objective.

Speaking

The oral transmission of information or ideas
This skill is all about how to communicate effectively with others, being mindful of whether they are talking to customers, colleagues or other stakeholders and in different settings.

Initially, this skill focuses on being able to speak clearly - first with well known individuals and small groups and then with those who are not known.

The next stage is about being an effective speaker by making points logically, by thinking about what listeners already know and using appropriate language, tone and gesture.

Beyond that, individuals focus on speaking engagingly through use of facts and examples, visual aids, and their expression and gesture.

Beyond that stage, speakers will be adaptive to the response of their listeners and ready for different scenarios. The final steps focus on speaking influentially - using structure, examples, facts and vision to persuade listeners.

Problem Solving

The ability to find a solution to a situation or challenge
This skill focuses on how to solve problems, recognising that while part of Problem Solving is technical know-how and experience, there are also transferable tools that individuals can develop and use.

The first steps focus on being able to follow instructions to complete tasks, seeking help and extra information if needed. The next stage focuses on being able to explore problems by creating and assessing different potential solutions. This includes more complex problems, without a simple technical solution.

Beyond this, the focus is on exploring complex solutions - thinking about causes and effects, generating options, and evaluating those options. This extends into analysis using logical reasoning and hypotheses.

Finally, individuals implement strategic plans to solve complex problems, assess their success, and draw out learning for the future.

Creativity

The use of imagination and the generation of new ideas
Creativity is the complement to Problem Solving, and is about generating innovations or ideas which can then be honed through the problem-solving process.

The first few steps focus on the individual's confidence in imagining different situations and sharing their ideas.

The focus is then on generating ideas - using a clear brief, making improvements to something that already exists and combining concepts.

Individuals then apply creativity in the context of their work and their wider life. They can build off this to develop ideas using tools like mind mapping, questioning, and considering different perspectives.

The most advanced steps focus on building effective innovation in group settings and by seeking out varied experiences and stimuli. Finally, individuals support others to innovate, by sharing tools, identifying the right tools for the situation and through coaching.

Staying Positive

The ability to use tactics and strategies to overcome setbacks and achieve goals
This skill is all about individuals being equipped to manage their emotions effectively and being able to remain motivated, and ultimately to motivate others, even when facing setbacks.

The early steps focus on identifying emotions - particularly feeling positive or negative. Building off that is the ability to keep trying - and then staying calm, thinking about what went wrong, and trying to cheer up and encourage others.

The focus then turns to identifying new opportunities in difficult situations, sharing those, and adapting or creating plans accordingly. At more advanced steps, individuals identify and manage risks and gains in opportunities.

Finally, individuals support others to stay positive by managing their own response, helping others to see opportunities and creating plans to achieve them.

Aiming High

The ability to set clear, tangible goals and devise a robust route to achieving them
This skill is about being able to plan effectively - both to achieve organisational goals, and also to set their own personal development targets. Initially, this is about knowing when something is too difficult, and having a sense of what doing well looks like for an individual.

The focus is then about working with care and attention, taking pride in success and having a positive approach to new challenges. Building on this, individuals set goals for themselves, informed by an understanding of what is needed, and then be able to order and prioritise tasks, secure resources and involve others effectively.

At the higher steps, the focus is creating plans informed by an individual's skill set, with clear targets, and building on external views. At the most advanced level, individuals develop long-term strategies. These are informed by an assessment of internal and external factors, structured through regular milestones and feedback loops.

Leadership

Supporting, encouraging and developing others to achieve a shared goal
This skill is relevant not only for individuals in positions of management with formal power, but also for individuals working with peers in teams.

At the earliest stages, the focus is on basic empathy - understanding their own feelings, being able to share them, and recognising the feelings of others. The focus is on managing - dividing up tasks, managing time and sharing resources, managing group discussions and dealing with disagreements.

Beyond that, individuals build their awareness of their own strengths and weaknesses, and those of their teams. This allows them to allocate tasks effectively. They then build techniques to mentor, coach and motivate others. At the highest steps, individuals will be able to reflect on their own leadership style and understand its effect on others.

Ultimately, they should be able to build on their strengths and mitigate their weaknesses, and adapt their leadership style to the situation.

Teamwork

Working cooperatively with others towards achieving a shared goal
This skill applies to working within both formal and informal teams, and also with customers, clients or other stakeholders. Initially, this is about individuals fulfilling expectations around being positive, behaving appropriately, being timely and reliable and taking responsibility. This extends to understanding and respecting diversity of others' cultures, beliefs and backgrounds.

The next steps focus on making a contribution to a team through group decision making recognising the value of others' ideas and encourage others to contribute too.Beyond that, individuals improve their teams through managing conflict and building relationships beyond the immediate team. At the top steps, individuals focus on how they influence their team through suggesting improvements and learning lessons from setbacks.

Ultimately, individuals support the team by evaluating others strengths and weaknesses and bringing in external expertise and relationships.

To achieve Step 11, individuals will show that they are aware that their listeners might respond in different ways and develop plans for those responses. 

In the previous step, the idea of speaking adaptively was introduced and how language, tone and expression might need to change in response to the listeners. This step builds on this by anticipating what some different responses of listeners might be – this is a core part of negotiation.

Building blocks

The building blocks of this step are learning:

  • What is negotiation 
  • Why negotiations happen 
  • How to think about your position before a negotiation
  • How to anticipate the other party’s position before a negotiation

Reflection questions

  • When is it helpful to think ahead about your audience’s possible responses?
  • What is negotiation? 
  • What do you need to know before you start a negotiation?
  • How can you also anticipate what the other party might do?
  • Could you give examples?

What you need to know

Introducing negotiation

A negotiation is a discussion to reach an agreement on something. Sometimes negotiations are high-profile, high-stakes events like trade negotiations or international treaties. We sometimes see negotiations in legal dramas or the news when two giant corporations are looking to merge, or one is seeking to acquire the other.

Most negotiations are much lower-key – they involve two or more parties seeking to overcome an obstacle or deciding to do something together. That includes buying a house, selling a car, dividing assets in a divorce, choosing what to have for dinner, or trying to establish a fair price for a service.

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Why negotiations happen

Negotiations happen when the answer is not obvious or preordained. Good negotiations should reach a conclusion that is a good outcome for both parties – there is a mutual benefit from whatever is agreed. However, there will be differences in how the benefits are shared between the two parties. Each is interested in securing as much of the benefit for themselves or their organisations as they can. 

Generally, negotiations will happen between the two or more parties who have a stake in the decision. Sometimes though, there will be a facilitator to help to reach an agreement – and this might be essential in particularly acrimonious or complex negotiations.

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Thinking about your position before a negotiation

Several key concepts are essential to understand when planning for a negotiation:

  • What is your goal from the negotiation?  Plan ahead to be clear on what you want to achieve, and how you will know if you have achieved it.
  • What are your non-negotiables? Think about which things you absolutely cannot concede in the negotiation. These are sometimes referred to as ‘red lines’. 
  • What are you willing to concede? Choose those things that you are ready to compromise on if it helps to reach an agreement.   
  • What are elements of mutual benefit? Identify those ‘easy wins’ which will be easy to agree as you both benefit from them.
  • What happens if you can’t reach an agreement? Identify what the Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement (BATNA) is for you. This is the best thing you could do if you were unable to reach an agreement. This is your ‘walk away’ position, and is vital to know.
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Anticipating the other party's position before a negotiation

It is vital to think not only from your perspective, but also to predict what the other party is likely to be thinking about. Negotiation is often compared to a game of chess – you cannot only think about your plan, but you need to be constantly aware of the intention of your opponent too. Some things to think about in advance:

  • What is the goal of the other party? Think about what success will look like for them and challenge yourself to be sure that this is really the case. 
  • What might be their non-negotiables? Identify what they might feel unable to compromise on at all.
  • Where might they be willing to compromise? Think about where they might be ready to make concessions.
  • What will happen for them if you can’t reach an agreement? Trying to identify what their Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement (BATNA) is – this can help to work out how much the other party need the agreement and so how much they might compromise. 

Spending time on this planning means that you are best prepared to speak adaptively and to achieve your goals.

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Advice for

Educators

Teaching it

To teach this step:

  • The teacher can start by asking learners to think about what they believe a negotiation is and whether they can give any examples. 
  • The teacher can introduce the idea of a negotiation being a route to reach an agreement, and how it links to these more advanced parts of speaking and the need to be adaptive. 
  • The critical questions for the learners to consider before a negotiation can be introduced here. The crucial point is that learners should not only be thinking about those questions for themselves and their position, but also from the view of the other party or parties that they are negotiating with.
  • Learners should then have the opportunity to plan a negotiation. This is important because it is only in applying these concepts to a scenario that they will fully make sense. A topical issue, or something from subject learning could be used as the focus – for example, negotiating the construction of a new development between the developers and local community. 
  • Learners need to have enough information or insight around the issue to engage with it, and should create their plan following the key questions outlined above.

Reinforcing it

This step can be reinforced whenever there is a negotiation or conflict that emerges in the course of what learners are studying – for instance, in history, geography, politics, economics or current affairs. The critical thing to reinforce is what the views of the different parties are likely to be and so what the scope for an agreement looks like.

Assessing it 

This step is best assessed through a structured activity where learners are asked to:

  • Remember the five key questions that they need to think about when planning for a negotiation from their perspective, and the four questions they need to ask themselves from the perspective of the other party or parties. 
  • Work through a negotiation scenario to put this into practice from two different perspectives.

Build this step

Advice for

Employers

Build it at work: 

This step will be relevant to those who will speak to others to persuade them, or to negotiate an agreement. 

To build this step in the work environment, managers could:

  • Explain to an individual the idea of a negotiation being a route to reach an agreement, and the need to speak effectively and be adaptive.
  • Model a process of preparing for a negotiation. Here a manager would demonstrate the key questions to ask themselves as part of this process, as they are defined above. They can also show how this process features two stages: thinking about your own position and thinking about the other person’s position. 
  • Task an individual to take part in an exercise where they can plan for a negotiation. The individual could work with a colleague who has experience of negotiating to support them through the process. 
  • Reflect with the individual on the barriers they face in practicing this skill step. This might lead to a discussion about where they can find role models in their workplace.

Practising it:

There are plenty of opportunities for building this skill in the workplace:

  • Working with colleagues: When the need to reconcile conflicting interests arises in the workplace, or when an agreement needs to be reached.
  • Working with customers or clients: When agreeing a way forward with a customer when the answer is not obvious. 

Reviewing it:

For those already employed, this step is best assessed through observation and questioning. For instance:

  • Asking an individual to describe how they would prepare for a negotiation to see if they can identify the key questions and stages that should be considered.
  • Observing the individual in a negotiation to see whether they have prepared effectively.
  • Reflecting with the individual to check that they have considered all of the key elements above, in advance of a negotiation. 

Spotting it in recruitment: 

During the recruitment process, this step could be assessed by:

  • Observing the individual on a simulated negotiation exercise would create opportunity for the individual to demonstrate the behaviours which demonstrate the skill step in action.
  • Reflecting with the individual to understand the steps they took to prepare.

Build this step

Advice for

Organisations

We work with a wide range of organisations, who use the Skills Builder approach in lots of different settings – from youth clubs, to STEM organisations, to careers and employability providers.

We have a lot of materials available to support you to use the Skills Builder Universal Framework with the individuals you work with, including:

  • Tools for self-reflection
  • Materials to support you to teach the skills, if appropriate in your setting
  • Reward systems like printable certificates

We also do a lot of work with organisations who join the Skills Builder Partnership to build the Universal Framework into their work and impact measurement systems. You can find out a lot more using the links below.

More resources

Advice for

Individuals

Why this skill step matters in education

Negotiation in the classroom is perhaps not as common as in the workplace. However, there are times within groups when there is a need to negotiate, perhaps the workload or responsibilities, or even negotiate with the senior leadership team to run a specific activity or change the procedures within the school or college. The success of the outcome will depend on your ability to anticipate the responses of the listener and to plan for each response. The ability to counteract their reaction with a positive well thought through comment, example or fact will stand you in good stead to achieve the outcome you are looking for.

Why this skill step matters in the workplace

The workplace is perhaps where negotiation skills are most in demand. They may include smaller scale negotiations over work patterns, job responsibilities or even pay. On the other side of the spectrum, the skills of negotiation are essential in large scale corporate takeovers and mergers. Somewhere in between, are the regular negotiations which take part in everyday commercial life, for example prices, delivery times, where the ability to plan for the possible responses of your listeners will enable you to counteract their comments with further proposals and discussion points.

Why this skill step matters in wider life

In the wider world, the need for negotiation skills are more common place than may be expected. For example, negotiating a reasonable price for something you wish to buy, negotiating social arrangements with a parent, negotiating the colour to decorate a bedroom, or even negotiating which school or college to attend. Mastery at this step of Speaking will stand you in good stead throughout your life and increase your ability to reach mutually agreeable and beneficial outcomes.

How to practise this skill step

To best practise this step of Speaking, apply what you have learnt to a real-life situation. Choose one or more of the activities below, remind yourself of the key points and strategies in the step, and have a go!

  • Plan a talk to negotiate with someone for something you particularly want to do, see, or have. Prepare the points you wish to make and then review your speech with the viewpoint of the listener. List any questions or points you think the listener may raise in opposition and prepare your response so you could adapt your discussion accordingly.
  • Ask a manager or teacher about the most challenging negotiation they have been involved in. Try to understand how much planning and preparation took place before hand to anticipate the response of the listeners, the ‘other side’. Would they have planned anything differently, if they had a second opportunity to negotiate?

Build this step

Advice for

Parents & Carers

As a parent or carer, you might be thinking about how best to support your children to build their essential skills. The good news is that there is lots that you can do that will have a big impact, including:

  • Talking about how you use these skill steps in your own life
  • Trying to show how to use the skill steps, and explaining why you are doing what you are doing
  • Praising your children when they show they are using the skills well, and help them to see that as a worthwhile achievement

We’ve developed a whole series of tools and resources to help parents to build these skills, including:

  • Skill stories for the youngest children (aged 3+)
  • Short activities that you can complete together
  • Regular challenges that you can complete at home to build the essential skills
  • Reward systems like printable certificates and badges

There is also content for older children and young people, including short activities and reflections that they can complete alone, or with you.

Build this step