“Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate.” – John F. Kennedy
Negotiation is shunned by far too many people as high arts of manipulation employed by masterful dealmakers and diplomats. Forgetting that children are some of the toughest negotiators out there. Cute little girl versions, some of its most dangerous operators.
I’ve recommended improv as a must-have future-proofing skill, of which negotiation is one of its most practical subsets. And one that’s rewardingly simple (and surprisingly fun) to put into profitable practice, immediately. Like any skill worth refining, it can scale up into all manner of subtle behavioural frameworks (see Resources below), but in the end, the most effective negotiators really appreciate that just a few powerfully soft skills triumph.
Hard-ball negotiators can win the smash&grab, but for those who want to grow a trusted reputation as a great negotiator, bullying and greed is a limited strategy. This counts as much for work, everyday purchases and relationships as it does to politics and corporate-buy-outs. If you’re good at listening closely, curious observation, and relationship-building, you’re a good part of the way there. Creativity, humour and a modicum of generosity are the power-tools of persuasion.
“You must never try to make all the money that’s in a deal. Let the other fellow make some money too, because if you have a reputation for always making all the money, you won’t have many deals.” – J. Paul Getty
The big 5 of Persuasive Engagement:
- be very clear about HOW you want people to behave, specifically. (to buy, subscribe, surrender, eat broccoli ..you get the idea)
- be very clear (for yourself) about WHY you actually want that behaviour.
- make it EASY for them to take the action!
- offer motivation (start with feeling, then give an intellectual reason to substantiate if needed)
- be prepared to try many different angles until you get to the point where getting the behaviour is simply a “no-brainer” to the other side. Congratulations you have arrived at win/win!
Realising that very few things in life are truly non-negotiable (gravity probably counts here), take new delight as a grown-up in tinkering the seemingly fixed “rules”. Pricing is certainly not fixed, but choosing to negotiate with someone with little power or influence in how that price was set is exhausting. The closer you can get to the source of where a price was decided, the better your odds are of unfastening it, and moving it your way.
There is almost always a way for the creative person to find a way to be an active maker, rather than passive consumer of life. If you haven’t revisited the childhood delight of negotiating reality lately, put on a fresh set of eyes this week, be bold in the face of seeming certainty, ask “but, why?” ..and make life a counter-offer.
“People like us, who believe in physics, know that the distinction between past, present, and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion.” – Einstein
WANT RESOURCES? START HERE:
[podcasts] Get the Slate Negotiation Academy into your ears this week. Load them up, everything from raising your salary, closing a deal on a property, physical hacks for persausion, to dealing with jerks and liars effectively.
Harvard’s Program on Negotiation have a superb set of downloads to dig into (more advanced)
[Open Courseware] Art of Negotiation. AcademicEarth have the Stanford University (CreativeCommons licensed) lectures from Stan Christensen and Steve Young for you to dive into. Highly recommended! ________________________________________________________________________________________________
Thank you to my quietly brilliant friend, innovator Dean Carlson, for his great story and the valuable reminder.