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One aspect of getting a good deal that I do not enjoy is the negotiation process. I’ve gotten over my unwillingness to negotiate at all. My problem now is that I’m never sure if I’m negotiating too firmly. I tend to walk away from things if I don’t get the deal that I want and I tend to negotiate pretty hard.
My approach to this, as always, is to learn more, and that’s where Stuart Diamond’s comes in. The subtitle explains the concept of the book quite well: How to Negotiate to Achieve Your Goals in the Real World.
The subtitle itself reveals a key part of negotiating: you’ve got to have a goal before you even begin. It’s much easier to negotiate if you know exactly what you’re negotiating for – at that point, it becomes something of a game.
1. Thinking Differently
Diamond boils negotiation down to three key elements: my goals, who I’m negotiating with, and what’s needed to persuade them. Each of these requires cultivation, and most of them take great advantage of forethought and planning. In short, the more footwork you do before a negotiation, the better off you are. Know what you want. Know who you’re negotiating with well enough to know what they want, especially in terms of things you can easily provide. Also, know the techniques you’ll use in convincing them that what you have is a fair exchange for what you want.
2. People Are (Almost) Everything
Negotiations are usually about people, not about substantive issues. If you focus on substantive issues, you’ll rarely win a negotiation. You have to instead focus on the elements of the issue at hand that truly matter to the person or people you’re negotiating with. What do they actually care about? What do they value? If you hit on those in negotiation, it will be much easier to achieve the goals you have for this negotiation.
3. Perception and Communication
The biggest key to successful negotiation is communication. You have to talk to and listen to the people you’re negotiating with. You also have to recognize that their words and perceptions are more important than yours in this negotiation – after all, they are holding that which you want. You need to also be dispassionate and focus on asking questions, most importantly when the negotiation seems to be going awry and the other person is negative. Don’t worry about who’s right – it’s fine to be “wrong” in the negotiation as long as you achieve your goals.
4. Hard Bargainers and Standards
Diamond uses a great technique here for negotiating, particularly against organizations. Many organizations put out statements and other material that describe their own standards and beliefs. If you’re negotiating with that business, don’t be afraid to use those statements in your defense. Almost always, this puts the other side in a sticky situation, as they either have to give you what you want or disavow their publicly-stated standards and beliefs. A great example: if you get awful fries at McDonalds, ask for replacements using their own “freshness guarantee” posted throughout the establishment.
5. Trading Items of Unequal Value
No two people value everything the same. A great negotiation results in both sides feeling like they got more out of the deal than the other side. A big part of successful negotiation is giving the little things (to you) that seem big to the other side: items or services that have value to the other person much higher than the cost to you. An example: you suggest another person hosts the party you’ve been planning together while you bring the snacks. So, rather than having a houseful of people that you have to prep for, you just bring some finger foods. Meanwhile, they’re relieved to have less to worry about as a host.
Emotion is usually a big negative in negotiations. It causes people to lose track of their goals and respond based not on the situation, but on their personal emotions. A great example shown in this chapter is when a person negotiates with an upset young girl to get her to take a blood test she needs for her medical treatment. The key is to tie the emotion back very tightly with what they rationally know. In this case, the negotiator tied the emotions the girl was going through with the trust the child had in their mother, then tied the blood test to helping the child’s mother help the child get through the illness.
7. Putting It All Together: The Problem-Solving Model
Most negotiations are effectively a problem. You know what you want the result to be and you know what pieces you have to work with. How do you get from here to there? The key usually comes down to a wide assessment of the pieces you have to work with. The more attributes you know about who you’re negotiating with and what you’re negotiating, the more likely it is that you’ll succeed in the negotiation. Diamond breaks this process down into twelve problem-solving strategies: goals are paramount, it’s about them, emotional payments, each situation is different, be incremental, trade unequally valued items, use their standards, be transparent/ethical, communicate & frame, find the real problem, embrace differences, and make a list.
8. Dealing with Cultural Differences
What if the person or group you’re negotiating with has a distinctly different cultural background than you? How do you cross that gap? One key is to understand and respect their culture, which often places value on things differently than how you place value on things. You should also be open about those differences. Don’t hide it – state it clearly, as it’s something you have in common (negotiating with someone from a different culture). Find things you have in common by having some casual time to get to know each other and realize that you’re not really that different from one another. It all comes down to knowledge.
9. Getting More at Work
Often, there are intangibles in the workplace that can make a huge difference in terms of a successful negotiation. It is not all about salary. Key things that both sides can offer (or request) that can make a workplace deal work include additional time off, flexible titles, a better title, assistance with educational goals, a better working environment (like better office equipment), and so on. These can be little things for the business, but big things for the employee.
10. Getting More in the Marketplace
Here, Diamond looks at the ins and outs of specific negotiations people might do throughout their life, such as negotiating the price of a car (make a personal connection, be calm, not arguing over who’s right, not asking for too much, etc.) and negotiating with a family business (often emotional and proud of their work, often feel underappreciated, overvalued assets due to many years of personal work investment). These tips are basically clues to help you hone your negotiation for that specific situation.
This is essentially a brief guide to relationships, which often boil down to a long series of negotiations. Who will pay for dinner? When will we take things to the next level? When will we get married? How will we move forward from here? Is this the time to separate? These are naturally very full of emotion, so Diamond suggests a lot of ways to help you get through these negotiations without falling into emotional negotiation traps. The best thing, he says, is to have an unemotional third party to help you work through these emotional traps before you even begin.
12. Kids and Parents
This chapter, mostly focusing on parents negotiating with kids, reflects what I’ve actually seen at work often in my own home. Children crave respect and real, focused attention. They want to be treated as mature and they thrive when you take the time to explain to them the whys of the decisions you make. The more you do that, the easier it is not only to convince children to do what you need them to do, but the easier it is for them to adopt patterns that you like.
Travel is often a great way to practice your negotiating chops because many of the elements of travel are fraught with fees that can be negotiated away. The key is to always be willing to walk away and find another option – many people fall into paying these fees because they’ve convinced themselves that they really have no other option and must pay it. That’s usually not true. Focus on the fees on your bills and see if you can make them disappear. Also, take note of any additional minor perks you might want, like a child car seat in a rental.
14. Getting More Around Town
What about the businesses and services you use in your own community, like the dry cleaner? Many such businesses and services are very open to negotiation. One great way to negotiate with a local service is to ask whether or not they offer a reduced rate if you refer your friends and family to their business – you’ll be surprised how many will knock a few dollars off your bill for that all-powerful referral (of course, you should follow through on your own pledge). Another technique is to bargain as a coalition. Look at the groups you’re involved in, like the PTA or the scouts or other civic clubs. Perhaps they could, as a group, negotiate a reduced rate at a local restaurant. Such arrangements start somewhere, after all.
15. Public Issues
Negotiation is often a key part of major public issues, ranging from health care to foreign affairs. Although many of us are not involved in such negotiations, putting yourself in the negotiation mindset as you look at the issue – which also means eliminating your emotions from the issue – can help you get a much deeper perspective on it. Diamond uses a bunch of public policy negotiation examples in this chapter to illustrate the idea.
16. How to Do It
The book closes with a brief chapter where many of the ideas presented earlier are broken down into an actionable recipe of attitude, preparation, location, timing, interaction, getting started, respect, information disclosure, and other key elements. It’s a good “how to” summary of the multitude of ideas in the book.
Is Worth Reading?
If you’ve ever wished you had more ability when it comes to negotiating things like credit card rates, a better situation at work, a better rate at the dry cleaner, or fewer fees on a car rental, will prove to be a valuable read for you.
Of course, as with any book of this type, it only really has value if you’re willing to go out there and use it. While there are a lot of ideas here, much of the book only clicks if you take action on it. Don’t spend your time reading this out of amusement’s sake; only read it if you actually intend to get out there and negotiate. This book will really help.
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