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3 Ways to Negotiate Like a Black Swan

By |June 25, 2018

black swanOne definition of negotiation that can be found in a dictionary is "a focused comparison of ideas/results," which to me is a sophisticated way of saying an argument over issues.

One of the first orders of business for us as consultants is to get clients out of this approach. More often than not a negotiation begins with one side stating what their issues are and what they want. Next, the other side does the same thing. In the end, if a deal is made both sides tend to meet in the middle.


Here are 3 ways, to break this ineffective cycle and negotiate like a Black Swan. 

1) Stop Negotiating and Start Navigating

Negotiation in our world is synonymous with navigation. Our skills were birthed in the hostage negotiation world. You do not show up at a kidnap or barricade situation and start giving orders or stating your case to the subject. We all know hostage negotiators don’t split the difference, i.e., “Ok there are 3 hostages let’s shoot for 1.5″. (It’s also not like you can throw a high anchor and ask for 7 hostages.) The initial focus is on gathering information, navigating emotional stresses, and communicating with your team. Once those steps are done, agree to talk again and discuss next steps.


2) Stop trying to get the counterpart to say “yes”

“Yes” is seen as the most beautiful word in just about any language. As people, we love to hear the word “yes.” Something about it makes us feel accomplished, and if you’re buying or selling “yes” presumably means you got what you wanted.

The reality is saying “yes” makes people uncomfortable. There are also three types of “yes” that we don’t have time for in this article. The bottom-line? No closed-ended questions in negotiation, especially since people can usually tell when you are trying to lead them down the “yes” trail. Use calibrated open-ended questions to get and confirm the agreement.


3) Reset their perception anchor

This is readily explained by ‘Kahneman & Tversky’s (1979) “Prospect Theory: An analysis of decision under risk.” Many things can be found on the internet regarding this topic. Kahneman & Tversky go into great detail about how this theory works and what aspects can affect the current situation. The bottom line is people are more likely to take a risk to avoid a loss then they are to take a risk for an equivalent gain. Basically, if an idea is presented to someone in a way that expresses how much better off it will make them, they are less likely stick their neck out for it, especially if they are already comfortable with the status quo.


No one ever said negotiating like a Black Swan was easy. But with proper preparation and the application of these ideas, we can guarantee that an individual will raise their level of success.