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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 12, individuals will show that they can adapt the content of what they are saying, depending on the response of the listeners.

In the previous step, the focus was on how to plan for different responses from those listening, which is an important step before any sort of negotiation. This step builds on this by showing that the individual can change their content depending on those reactions in the moment.

Building blocks

The building blocks of this step are learning:

  • The structure of a negotiation 
  • The importance of listening 
  • How to adapt the content of what you say

Reflection questions

  • What is different about planning a negotiation to being in it? 
  • Why is listening an essential part of negotiation? 
  • How can you adapt the content of what you are saying, in response to listeners? 
  • Have you had any experience of doing this?

What you need to know

The structure of a negotiation

Planning ahead for a negotiation, as we explored in Step 11 is essential. But there is a big difference to preparing for a negotiation and actually being it.

When participating in a negotiation, there are likely to be several stages to reach an agreement:

  • Build some trust: Before you get anywhere, you need to show that you are entering the negotiations in a spirit of wanting to achieve a good outcome, and that you are going to display integrity in your approach. 
  • Agree a structure: If the negotiation is complex, it will be helpful to agree on how you will work through the different points and reach an agreement. This is the scaffolding that will support you to work effectively. 
  • Understand their perspective: Before you get too far, it is worth trying to check some of the assumptions that you made about the other party. For example, what is the goal that they are looking to achieve? What are their areas of non-negotiation, and where are they able to compromise? What will they do if this agreement doesn’t work out? You might not be able to ask these questions directly. 
  • Work through point by point: Follow the structure that you have agreed, making points clearly and in turn. 
  • Identify points of agreement: Where points of agreement have been reached, make sure these are captured. Alongside capture those points of disagreement which can be returned to.
  • Work through points of dispute: This is where being adaptive in your speaking is particularly important so you can shift your position if necessary to reach an accommodation – this is discussed more below.
  • Reach an agreement: Ultimately, you should be able to reach an agreement with the other parties that everyone is happy with.
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The importance of listening

At this advanced level of Speaking, advanced Listening skills are also required. We cannot build trust or adapt if we are not keenly aware of what the other party are communicating and their needs and priorities.

This includes being able to:

  • Demonstrate active listening and engagement to build trust (Step 6)
  • Ask questions, summarise and rephrase what is being heard (Step 7 and Step 8)
  • Avoid being unduly influenced by the other party (Step 9 and Step 10)
  • Listen critically to compare different perspectives (Step 11 and above) 

If those are areas that you have not yet mastered, it is worth turning to these, as it is difficult to master speaking without those Listening steps too.

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Adapting your content

As a negotiation progresses, you will have to be able to adapt the content of what you say to the responses of your listeners. This will include what you want to tell them and the points that you want to make in response to their suggestions, as well as whether you are willing to change based on their arguments. 

There are several strategies that individuals might take in negotiations:

  • Accommodating: The listeners might be willing to adapt to try to reach an accommodation that you are happy with. This means that you can be open in your points and try to secure the best result for you. 
  • Avoiding: Sometimes, individuals might feel awkward about areas of disagreement and so actively avoid talking about them. In this case, you will need to lead the conversation to this area, otherwise you might never address the differences or reach an agreement.
  • Collaborating: This is where individuals are willing to change, but they want to reach an agreement that works for both parties. The tone is positive, and you can mirror that by talking about mutual benefits.
  • Competing: On the other hand, individuals might be keen to win for themselves, and to have the satisfaction that they got the best deal. The tone is often more confrontational, and you will have to think harder about what to concede to make the other party feel they have won, while you still achieve your goal.
  • Compromising: Finally, individuals might be willing to ‘split the difference’. This can be helpful to reach an agreement, but it can mean that the full range of options isn’t fully explored. Here, you can help to slow down the conversation, and try to get it back on a more positive footing.

In each of these cases then, making the step from having a clear negotiating plan to speaking adaptively to the context will mean thinking about the behaviour of your audience.

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Advice for

Educators

Teaching it

To teach this step:

  • The teacher should introduce the idea that there is a big difference between planning for a negotiation and actually being in the middle of it. Learners can suggest why it might feel quite different.
  • The teacher can suggest a structure for a negotiation, talking the learners through the steps, or providing the headings and asking learners to try to work out what should happen at each point.
  • The teacher should emphasise the importance of listening to an effective negotiation – at this level, speaking is about being able to adapt to what is heard to choose what is said with great care. 
  • Learners can then be introduced to the five broad approaches others might take to negotiations and be asked to think about how they should respond in each scenario.
  • Finally, for this step to come together, learners should have the chance to take part in a negotiation. This will take some planning to create a plausible scenario with sufficient information and clear parameters of what can be negotiated. 
  • The teacher can ask learners to reflect afterwards whether they were able to follow the suggested structure, and the approach to the negotiations that the other party took and how they reacted to that. 

Reinforcing it

This step is more challenging to reinforce in class, as it relies on a carefully designed scenario. However, debate can be adapted where groups are given different perspectives on an issue and have to represent their interests to try to reach a negotiated agreement. This is a model that is used successfully for Model UN, for example. It can be an excellent model to explore more complicated subject matter. 

Assessing it 

This step is best assessed through an assessment of a negotiation activity. It can be supplemented by a reflection to explore how the learners considered their interactions with their opponents in the negotiation.

Build this step

Advice for

Employers

Build it at work: 

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

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

  • Discuss the reasons why planning a negotiation and performing a negotiation might feel quite different to each other. 
  • Model a structure for a negotiation. Here a manager might stage a simulation where they play out a negotiation scenario with an individual and arrange this to be recorded. During the event they can play out each of the strategies to adapt the content. After the event, the manager and individual might watch the recording together where the manager might show instances of the strategies to adapt content in action.
  • Task an individual to complete a negotiation exercise where they can try out the strategies to see what their effects are.
  • Reflect with the individual about which of strategies they feel most comfortable using after the exercise.

Practising it:

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

  • Working with colleagues: When a need to reconcile conflicting interests arises or the need to reach an agreement in a complex area. 
  • Working with customers or clients: When having a conversation with a customer or client to build an agreement. 

Reviewing it:

For those already employed, this step is best assessed by observing an individual over a series of events. 

  • A manager might observe an individual as they negotiate for evidence of the individual applying strategies to adapt their content. 
  • A manager might also observe for evidence of listening skills, which support the speaker to adapt their content based on what has been said, too. 

Spotting it in recruitment: 

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

  • Observing an individual as they engage in a simulated negotiation scenario. This scenario should create the conditions which require them to adapt the content of their speech in response to the person they are speaking with. 
  • This skills step might be further assessed by questioning the individual during an interview, asking them to describe a negotiation scenario where things did not to plan. Here, evidence of the individual adapting their content might be found in their description.

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 when school or college working groups need to negotiate their workload or responsibilities, perhaps even negotiate with a 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 and plan for the responses of the listener as in Step 11, but more importantly and more challenging is the ability to actually adapt your content as the negotiation is taking place. This multi-tasking, observing and listening to the other party, reflecting on your content, selecting a more appropriate content and all whilst maintaining the end goal, can be complex and requires practice.

Why this skill step matters in the workplace

The workplace is perhaps the place where the skills of negotiation are most in demand. Negotiations may be internal between employees and managers, colleagues or between different departments, perhaps to agree workloads, locations, responsibilities. However, both the speaker and listeners work for the same organisation and have the same ultimate goal, the success of the business.

Negotiations can also be external, between two organisations, or between a business and their customer or client. These can be more challenging as there tends to be more at stake when negotiating externally. There can be very serious financial or long-term implications of not reaching a desired or intended outcome.

Why this skill step matters in wider life

In the wider world, the need for negotiation skills are more common place than initially may be expected. For example, negotiating a fair price for something you wish to purchase, negotiating social arrangements with a parent, negotiating with neighbours, or even negotiating which school or college to attend.

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!

  • Visit or re-visit Steps 6 to 11 of Listening. Assess whether you have mastered each of these steps and if not seek to address this learning. It is difficult to master this level of Speaking without mastering these Listening steps too.
  • Watch a negotiation scene on the internet. Did the negotiations go to a plan, could you identify points where the speaker changed their content or applied any of the other strategies highlighted in this step.
  • Identify any opportunities where negotiation skills may be necessary at school, college, or work and volunteer to take part in the negotiations.

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