Last Updated Jan 10, 2011 2:16 PM EST
But that's because we have mistaken notions about what negotiation means, says Stuart Diamond, professor of a famed negotiation class at UPenn's Wharton School, and author of the new book Getting More: How to Negotiate to Achieve Your Goals in the Real World (Crown Business). "Every human interaction involves negotiation, from kids and relationships, to jobs and travel, to shopping to chatting, to politics and diplomacy,â€ he says.
That knock-down meeting on pricing is a negotiation, but so is a colleague's request for a phone number, or your offer to read your child a story before bed. And unfortunately, "almost everyone does it wrong,â€ Diamond reports. "That is, they don't meet their needs very well.â€ We tend to create conflict rather than actually solve problems. Diamond shared the most effective strategies for getting what you want.
Q: What is the biggest mistake people make in negotiations?
A: Not understanding the other party enough to know how to persuade them. If you don't understand them, the negotiation, if you can get it done at all, takes a much longer time. Someone may not want to buy from you because they perceive your customer service is bad because they heard something somewhere. Unless you take the trouble to find out why, you will not know what to do.
It's about them [the other party]. Finding, understanding and valuing the pictures in the head of the other party is more important than any collection of facts, resources or evidence that you can muster. That's because it's "themâ€ that you need to persuade. Once you have the pictures in their head, you know what it will take to get them to meet your needs, and where to start.
Q: What about the hardball tactics?
A: The traditional ways â€" threats, power, walking out, invoking alternatives, good cop & bad cop â€" just make others resentful and cause retaliation. That means terrorism, malicious obedience at work, the child kicking and screaming on the floor. Valuing their perceptions (as a starting point) gets them to listen more and be more persuadable.
Q. What is the best way to start off a negotiation?
A. Address emotions first. The world is an irrational place. In fact, the more important the negotiation is to the parties, the more irrational (emotional) they are. Emotional situations call for emotional payments: empathy (focusing on their emotions), concessions, apologies, listening. They don't call for rational solutions. Mentioning "win-winâ€ in an emotional situation is therefore irrelevant, because emotional people aren't listening to logic. First you need to understand and empathize with their emotion. At the same time, the more emotional you get (including anger), the less effective you are. Take a break or lower your expectations, since dashed expectations are a big cause of emotion.
Q. Is there an efficient way to advance a negotiation?
A. First, make a people connection. When people like you, they are six times as likely to meet your needs than if you have no connection with them. And that means service providers of all types. Ask about them, find out who they are. You need to actually be curious. If you don't really care about them or a relationship, then you will get less because they will sense you are phony. Either get another negotiator who does care, or find something about them in which you are interested. There must be something with which you can make a connection.
Second, trade unequally valued items from any source. All of life is about quid pro quo. If you want something, you have to give something, whether in business or your personal life. But it doesn't have to be money or even part of the deal. It can be anything that another party values. It can be a business title, a corner office, college advice, sports tickets, any intangible item including respect or just listening. TV time for homework. A lower price for business referrals. The key is to give things you don't care as much about but which they value, and get things they don't care as much about but which you value. The more you find out about what they value, the more things you have to trade for what you want. This greatly expands the pie.
Q. Can I use these strategies to negotiate with my kids? I really want my 3-year-old to eat his vegetables.
A. Kids are easy to negotiate with. You just need to understand their perspective. I have been negotiating with my 8-year-old son since he could understand language. Kids have little power, so they like to control things. So I let him pick restaurants and otherwise make decisions for the family as much as possible. So he is always in a debtor situation with me. If he doesn't want to do something, I say, "Well, didn't daddy let you do X?â€ It greatly increases the chances he will do what I want. Or I trade him. Trading doesn't have to be a bribe. After all, adults work for salary. So I might trade vegetables for ice cream or the zoo or something else the child wants. "I'll give you something you want if you give me something I want.â€ It teaches the child a big lesson in life, quid pro quo. Or I might find out what about the vegetables the child doesn't like and mix them with something the child likes. Adults do this with sauces. It's not unreasonable for the child not to like something. Explore creative possibilities.
Readers, I'd love to know: what's the most creative thing you've ever traded off in a negotiation?
Image courtesy flickr user, KellyK