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3 Guidelines For Negotiating Like a Pro

By |August 07, 2017

Hand held medal against a stormy sky.jpegTraditionally speaking negotiation is seen as a focused comparison of ideas/results, in some circles, this can easily be construed into an argument over points.  

Typically 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 feel like they could have gotten more or they stuck it to the other side. Here are 3 guidelines for negotiating better outcomes. 

1) Assumptions = Hypothesis

As people, we sometimes go into situations with a blind faith or hope of a good outcome.  This also tends to spark moments when you will compromise yourself by imagining scenarios where the other side turns you down.  This causes us not to want to approach certain issues because we have already worked ourselves up imagining what the reality might look like.  Always go into any interaction to make yourself smarter.  Discover the hidden treasures that make your deal worth while.  

If you ever "assume" the other side will react a certain way to a topic or thought process, change the approach to the same issue, don't abandon it.  Black Swan says negotiation is synonymous with navigation. These skills were birthed in the hostage negotiation world. You do not show up at a kidnap/barricade situation and start giving orders or stating your case to the subject.  This happens all the time in the movies of course when the hero shows up and starts barking orders at the suspect.  In reality, the brave men and women that put their lives on the line to save others initial focus is on gathering information. Don't assume - find out, navigate emotional stresses, and communicate with your team. Once this is done, agree to talk again and discuss next steps.


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

You cannot have a negotiated agreement without obtaining information that is beneficial to you. In light of that, no matter what happens there is critical information pertaining to the deal that can only be obtained at the negotiation table, and what's worse is that you don't necessarily know when this information is going to reveal itself.  We get distracted trying to get people to validate us or our opinions, and we lose sight of finding out what we don't know.

As people, we love to hear the word “yes.” Something about it makes us feel accomplished.  The reality is saying “yes” makes people uncomfortable. Don't ask closed ended questions aimed at "yes" in negotiation. People can usually tell when you are trying to lead them down the “yes” trail.

It is just as easy to get confirmation with a "no," additionally the feeling of protection people have when they say it still works in your favor.  Ask questions that are specifically designed to get them to say "no."  Try asking "Would it be out of line to have this?" instead of "Can I have that?" 


3) Knowing that you help them avoid loss makes you valuable 

Some of the reason we get hooked on pitching gains has to be when we imagine ourselves in their shoes we think "Oh if I were them I would love to have (my product) as part of (what their business does)."  We forget that empathy is not about how you would react if you had their shoes on.  Furthermore, when pitching gains, we aren't taking simple human nature into consideration.  People are more scared of loss than they are compelled by gains.  

This is readily explained by ‘Kahneman & Tversky’s (1979) “Prospect Theory: An analysis of decision under risk.”   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 than they are to take a risk for an equivalent gain. With that said if propositions are expressed as "how much I can make you" versus "how much do you lose not having me" you instantly become more desirable.

In addition to the benefits of each of these 3 guidelines, they each also increase your likability. Having likability in the bag has no downside. Remember people are 6 times more likely to do business with someone they like.  If you hypothesize that someone will have a negative reaction to the seemingly bad news, you prepare an accusations audit for them.  Don't take yourself hostage to the unknown and compromise with yourself on issues that may be game changing.  Executing communication skills that are targeted at all the human responses that cause decision making can make you a worthy counterpart in negotiation.  Some even say that all our decisions are made from fear or love.