I trust my mother, but I cut the cards.
--Dan Rather, CBS Anchor, quoted by Charlie Rose, member of 60 Minutes II team


Negotiation Occurs Everywhere

Negotiating is not something to take for granted. Most people think they are excellent negotiators; few are. Certain cultures encourage individuals to become good negotiators. The bazaars of the world are full of excellent negotiators. Think back to the last time you negotiated for purchasing a car. Think back to the last time you negotiated with your girlfriend or boyfriend to go to a movie. Think back to the last time you negotiated with your children for their bedtime hour. What does it take to become a good negotiator and a good communicator? First, you have to adopt the philosophy of win-win. Each of you should come away from the negotiation with something. By your denying the other party anything from the negotiation, you are not an excellent negotiator.

First Seminar on Negotiating Changed My Life

When I think of negotiating, these names immediately come to mind as authorities in the field: Dr. Chester Karrass, Gary Karrass, and Roger Dawson. Many other prominent individuals are also writing about negotiating. Years ago I experienced my first negotiating seminar with Gary Karrass. At the time, he asked us about halfway through the seminar to break into groups of two and try to sell a used refrigerated truck with all its flaws. Little did I realize at the time we would be taught different negotiating techniques for the buyers and sellers.

We were asked to put down three prices: the price we would take, the highest price we would accept, and the price probably the truck would be sold for. These prices were unknown to the sellers. They had their own list of prices. The bidding was spirited, and every trick Karrass had described, as well as some not expected, was employed. Eventually, when the seminar group came back together after selling or buying the truck, we learned the following:

  • When you are about to say yes, say no one more time.
  • Learn not to flinch.
  • Leave less on the table and leave others satisfied.
  • Start out with low, opening offer.
  • Encourage the other party to open up first.
  • The use of time is important.
  • Make concession on a minor issue.
  • Take time to answer questions.
  • Confusion can exist between need and want.
  • Negotiate on small items.
  • Learn when to leave.

    Negotiating Becomes a Process

    This episode of negotiating for a used, refrigerated truck only points out how negotiating can be, if you don't know the rules. Always think of negotiating as a process, to quote a famous negotiation author, Herbert Cohen. You are concentrating on three major ideas:

    From these related ideas, you create positions and decisions. In the interim your negotiation progresses. Price is always a consideration, but it is not the only consideration. You should do your homework (e.g. Blue Book prices of automobiles) and be sensitive in the negotiation to nonverbal cues. Never let time constrain you so the other person realizes you are fighting a deadline. As Herb Cohen recommends, keep cool as the deadline nears.

    Bargaining Power Builds Negotiation

    Negotiation is built on power, bargaining power. It gets down to what degree of influence you can exert with the other person. Donald C. Farber in his book, Common Sense Negotiation: The Art of Winning Gracefully, phrases the issue of bargaining power this way: "Put simply, bargaining power is the extent to which you can influence the other party because of the strength of your position or the weakness of his or hers." You have to know what kind of people you are dealing with. How important are they? How valuable is the item you are negotiating for?

    Prepare a TOPP Partnership

    Negotiation requires four elements: Trust, Openness, Positiveness, and Partnership. In addition, to remove an impasse you have to move from conflict to cooperation to collaboration. If any of these elements are not present, the negotiation may not be successful. The negotiators need to trust each other, whether in a worldwide negotiation with Iraq or settling a work schedule. What does it mean to be open with your fellow negotiator? You have to see the point of view from the other side. You need to produce open hands from your standpoint, up to a point. Honesty needs to be evidenced. You speak as if you are someone who is upbeat about the situation and willing to settle. You may add a dose of humor as long as the negotiation is kept on track. Don't be fooled by certain cultures, such as the Japanese. A nod does not mean agreement; your Japanese counterpart may only be agreeing you have a position. Nodding does not mean assent.

    You have probably heard the expression, "It takes two to tango." That partnership you form in the negotiation should not be dismissed easily. Trust builds the openness that builds the partnership. As you are preparing this partnership, it is wise to remember Michele Willens' admonitions in "The Manly Art of Win-Win Negotiating":