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Game On - Learn to Negotiate

Updated: May 3, 2023

By now I hope you know what I mean when I tell you it’s “Game On!” And when it’s Game On, your skill at negotiation is crucial.

“The most dangerous negotiation is the one you don’t know you’re in.” -- Chris Voss, former FBI hostage negotiator

So much has been said and written about the art of negotiation! It’s a truly fascinating subject. But few of us really understand the process, the tactics, and the consequences.

Sometimes we don’t even realize we’re in a negotiation until we’re picking up the pieces afterwards and feeling like we got the raw end of a deal. Do you know which hidden negotiations drain your time – your most valuable commodity – each and every day?

Three Tips:

· Recognize when you are in a negotiation.

· Listen, listen, listen.

· Be prepared.

Pretty much all human exchanges can be characterized as negotiations, and these can range from simple to complex. And…if you’re not paying attention, the simple can become much more complicated. Recognizing when you are in a negotiation helps you be more effective and avoid spinning your wheels.

True Story: A prestigious hardware store, renowned for high-quality products and stellar customer service, sold an expensive woodstove along with installation. But when the customers used it, something went wrong – embers escaped and burned a hole in their carpet. Customer service insisted nothing was wrong with the stove. The customers contended that a faulty stove had ruined their carpet. The problem escalated to a pending lawsuit, an expensive and worrying prospect. The store turned to a professional negotiator.

The negotiator went to the customers’ home. The carpet was indeed burned, but the stove seemed to be working fine. The couple was adamant that it was “the stove’s fault” that the carpet was burned. He asked them what they wanted and how he could help. They exchanged some uncomfortable glances and finally spoke up – maybe a throw rug would cover the burnt spot and offer some protection against errant embers? They drove to a local carpet store together, bought a fire-resistant area rug, and covered the hole. Problem solved.

As you can see, you don’t have to be a professional negotiator to come to a satisfactory agreement. Often, the resolution is just using common sense. You don’t have to be brilliant when negotiating, but try not to be stupid. It can get really costly when people take silly stances for mysterious reasons.

When you find yourself negotiating, keep your eye on the prize. It doesn’t matter who’s wrong or right as long as your client leaves the table feeling heard. There are many skills, tactics, and strategies that can help, so let’s dig in and get familiar with some of them…

1. Prepare: Before going into a negotiation, do your research and prepare thoroughly. Understand the other party's goals, interests, and constraints. Get a clear understanding of your own goals, interests, and constraints. This will help you identify areas of potential agreement and disagreement.

2. Listen: Active listening is critical to successful negotiation. Give your full attention and understand others’ perspectives. Ask questions and clarify their points. Taking the time to gather info gives you greater influence – influence over money, collaboration, emotions, and outcomes.

3. Build rapport: Building rapport can help you establish trust and create a positive negotiation environment. You can build rapport by finding common ground, being friendly and approachable, and showing empathy.

4. Anchor: Anchoring starts with an extreme or aggressive offer to set the tone of the negotiation. This can anchor expectations and make it more likely that people will concede.

5. Use concessions strategically: Concessions are a powerful negotiating tool. Use them strategically to show good faith and build momentum. Make sure you’re getting something in return for any concession you make.

6. Stay calm: Negotiations can be tense and emotional. It's important to stay calm and focused. Avoid getting defensive or angry. Stick to the facts and the issues at hand.

7. Use silence: Silence can be powerful. It can create discomfort and pressure the other party to make a concession. Use silence to give people time to think and consider your offer.

8. Know your BATNA: BATNA stands for Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement. It's important to have a clear understanding of your BATNA before going into a negotiation. This gives you leverage and helps you evaluate potential agreements.

9. Close the deal: Once you reach an agreement, it's important to close the deal effectively.

Summarize the terms of the agreement, confirm understanding, and get it in writing. Agreement without implementation is no result at all!

Successful negotiation requires preparation, active listening, strategic concessions, and a focus on achieving mutually beneficial outcomes. By mastering these techniques, you can become a more effective negotiator.

Do not get upside down! Shut up and listen.

Confirm or summarize what you’ve heard via playback. Show that you understand and have heard them. Being heard is a full-on human need, so do it. Once they know you are listening, it is Game On.

Still think you don’t know how to negotiate? Practice and have some fun. Try some of these techniques in your day-to-day and see how far it gets you…

“I negotiated discounted pricing on a cabin rental this weekend”!

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