Seven More Negotiating Tips from a Grizzled Veteran

A few weeks ago, we provided seven negotiating tips from a grizzled veteran in one of our blog posts. This time, we are providing seven more techniques that you can use during any type of negotiations, to be more effective and to reach a better outcome. Next time you are negotiating a real estate transaction, buying a car, or simply wrangling with your spouse, consider these tips.

Seven More Negotiating Tips from a Grizzled Veteran

1 - Remember That You are an Animal
Whatever your spiritual beliefs, your spirit right now resides inside a human body. This fact has profound implications, particularly when you are under stress. When it's been too long since your last meal, who among us hasn't felt low energy, grumpiness, or even confusion? And yet in the heat of a negotiation, many people simply forget to stop and eat. Don't do that. Take a break. Get a meal, or at least a snack. Then, resume the negotiation.

2 - Listen
If the other party's lips are moving, words that are important to them are coming out of their mouth. If you are impatiently waiting for them to stop talking so you can negate whatever they just said, you are not listening. Listening to the other party is not the same as agreeing with them. Truly listening requires not only hearing the words of the other party but also noticing the other party's emotional state. People can sense when they are being truly listened to and will usually reciprocate. This is the beginning of progress toward resolving your differences.

3 - Manage Grief

In her seminal book On Death and Dying Elizabeth Kubler Ross outlined the stages of grief - denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. This framework is often useful in the negotiation process. Either or both parties in a negotiation may be dealing with grief as they realize that their offering does not match terms available in the marketplace. The grieving process is organic, and cannot be rushed. Give the other party - or yourself - time to accept reality.

4 - Don't Expect Fairness
The adjective fair has been defined as "free from bias". This is appropriate language for describing a well-qualified judge or umpire, but applying this framework to a negotiation will cause you a lot of heartache. The art of negotiation involves finding the point where the self-interest of the parties overlap. Spend your energy finding that place, and ignore fairness. Weltschmerz is a wonderful German word that means "a feeling of melancholy and world weariness". Feel weltschmerz if you must about the fact that the world is an unfair place. Then get over yourself, remind yourself that you are not on the schoolyard playground anymore, and do the hard work of finding common ground.

5 - Remember the Norm of Reciprocity
Reciprocity means "if you'll scratch my back, I'll scratch yours". This social norm reflects the fact that people expect the return of benefits for benefits, and harm for harm. You can tell if you are dealing with a bully in a negotiation if the counter party continues to ask for everything and offers nothing in return. Counter parties typically exhibit this behavior only when they perceive themselves to be in the superior power position. Is your negotiation counter party accurate in their assessment of their power? If so - and if you have no better alternatives - you may just have to swallow your pride, make the deal, and move on. If not, this brings us to the next point...

6 - When You Can't Push Ahead, Deflect

Very often in a negotiation we decide to move ahead and make a deal with our first choice party only to have them reject our offer. They may say something like "this is my bottom-line; take it or leave it". Will Rogers once wisely said "never miss a good chance to shut up". If you think you can do better elsewhere but don't yet want to burn the bridge, just reply with some version of "let me get back to you later".

You may then feel stuck and have a lot of frustration and built-up energy that's looking for a place to go. Now what? The law of conservation of energy says that energy cannot be created or destroyed; it can only change from form one to another. Deflect the energy caused by your frustration and use that energy to propel you to develop alternatives to your first choice. If your first choice party won't play ball with you, develop choice two and three... and maybe four and five. Take charge by creating alternatives. You might be surprised how liberating it can feel to use frustration as a source of propulsion instead of paralysis. You may also be surprised to have your first choice party call back and decide to make that deal with you after all. And if that doesn't happen, you now have other options.

7 - Always, Always Be Humble
Consider that you just might be wrong, and that if you are wrong, you will be in good company. For millennia everyone was certain that the world was flat. Then Ferdinand Magellan circumnavigated the globe. Newton's First Law of Motion states that an object at rest remains at rest until acted upon by a force. This view held sway until Albert Einstein came along and said, essentially, that there are no objects at all - the physical world is largely an illusion. At the subatomic level what we perceive as objects are comprised almost entirely of energy - there really are no "objects", only energy. In negotiations, as in life, we should always be open to new facts, information, and points of view.

Blog contributed by Ed Riggins, Senior Vice President with Cresa Atlanta. As a tenant representative, Ed negotiates real estate transactions on behalf of corporate clients. In addition, he also speaks, teaches, writes, and mentors. For more information, visit www.cresa.com/atlanta or Ed’s website at www.edriggins.com.


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