Even More Elements of Successful Negotiation

In previous posts, here and here, I’ve detailed some of the specific tactics you can use to significantly increase your chances of negotiating successfully. But people keep writing in to ask for more. As always, I’m happy to comply.

This time around, however, I’m focusing less on techniques and more on increasing your level of negotiating skill.

Accordingly, here are some straightforward ways you can become a better, stronger negotiator:

Practice Makes Perfect

It’s so simple that most people don’t think of it: to become a better negotiator, practice negotiating. And to make your practice sessions easier and less intimidating, start by negotiating for relatively small wins.

For example, I recently rented a car and scared myself silly on the way to the car rental location by using one of those new (new-fangled?) motorized scooters for rent in many towns by the minute or the mile. After just a few hundred feet I felt it was a very unsafe mode of transportation.

So when I returned the rental car, I negotiated for a ride. It was company policy not to provide that kind of transportation to customers, but I asked and explained why I wanted one. After a few rounds of negotiation, they drove me home.

Similarly, a woman I know decided to return a dress a couple of months after she purchased it – well beyond the store’s “30 day return” policy. She walked in with the dress and a couple of reasons why she was late in returning it. After some negotiation with the clerk and then the store manager, she walked out with a full refund.  

Practice in such simple, almost inconsequential situations allows you to try out various negotiating techniques, to get comfortable holding firm on the specifics of what you want, and to experience the thrill of successful bargaining.

Later on, you can apply your beefed-up negotiating prowess to more important matters.

Make It Third Person

Research shows that many people are willing to negotiate more forcefully, more passionately, more tenaciously, and – as a result – more successfully when they are negotiating on behalf of someone other than themselves.

You can harness this extra negotiating power by framing your negotiating efforts on behalf of some third party.

This third party can be your co-workers, your family, or someone else – anyone who will benefit when your negotiating proves successful.

If there is no third party involved, you can still tap into this extra negotiating horsepower by pretending – in your own heart and mind – that you’re doing this for someone else, even if it’s only an imaginary friend.

Offer Solid Reasons

Studies show that people are more willing to comply with a request if you give them a reason. This seems to work even if the reason has no relevance.

For example, people are more willing to let you go ahead of them in line if you add “I’m late for another appointment” or some other non-sequitur to your request.

The same tendency holds sway during many negotiations, although you’ll generally get better results if your reasons are relevant and persuasive. Explaining the benefits of granting your request is one obvious strategy, and it works even better when you point out benefits to others rather than just the ones that will accrue to you.

Exhibit More Confidence

There’s a world of difference between negotiating for something as though you don’t deserve it, and negotiating for the same thing as though you do. For a variety of reasons, people on the other side of a negotiating table respond more favorably when you display a higher level of confidence.

Curiously, it’s not only a matter of your feeling confident – which is important — but also a matter of displaying your confidence in ways other people will readily perceive and respect.

This usually involves:

  • Good posture, and lots of eye contact.
  • Personal poise and body stillness – no nervous movements.
  • Speaking slowly in a slightly deeper voice.
  • Making only occasional, forceful motions with your hands.
  • Making statements rather than asking questions.
  • Allowing silences to build rather than filling them with chatter.

Notice that none of these skills is about steamrolling the other side.

The plain truth is you’ll be more successful in your negotiations, in both your work and your life, when you can find a way to make the results you want a win for everyone involved, and then present this winning solution from a position of confidence, poise and negotiating skill.

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