15 things to know to become an expert negotiator

In a good negotiation, we start keeping in mind every possible scenario and we proceed excluding the hypotheses thanks to every single information we receive.

It is a process of knowledge and attention, for this reason many intelligent people are not good negotiators: they believe they must not discover anything, they think they can proceed while remaining consistent with their initial opinions, and often make mistakes. The big negotiators are open to any possibility, remain intellectually agile and are aware of operating in a fluid situation.

It is essential to know how to listen and fight the cognitive bias (prejudice) that leads us to give weight to any clue that gives consistency to what we think, instead of leaving room for truth. We also need to beat the urge to listen to ourselves: often, during a verbal confrontation, we think about what we are about to say, instead of listening to the other.

On the contrary, one must be focused on what the interlocutor is saying: it is called active listening and it is a fundamental tactic. The goal is to identify what the other party really needs (economically, but also emotionally) and make her feel safe. In this way we validate his emotions and create a climate of trust.

The three voice registers that can be used to make our interlocutor feel comfortable

Our brain not only processes actions and words, but also feelings and intentions. When we enter a room with a good level of enthusiasm, we attract others to us. If on the street you smile at a stranger, he will smile at you.

When people are in a positive mental state they think faster, they are more collaborative and willing to problem solving. We can use this powerful tool by managing our voice.

The negotiator essentially uses three registers:

  • tone of voice of the DJ of a night radio that broadcasts in FM, calm and slow;
  • positive, playful voice, appearing relaxed and smiling;
  • assertive (or direct) voice to be used rarely.

Most of the time the second voice should be used, that of a naturally comfortable person, open to conversation, encouraging.

The third should be used with caution because it signals dominance. Speaking slowly and clearly, in a flat way, conveys only one idea: I am in control. Active listening allows you to use mirroring (mirror), using the information that comes from the other party.

This technique serves to make us perceive as similar and is based on a profound biological mechanism: we are afraid of what is different, we trust what is equal to us. We love to belong to groups whose members have similar traits to ours. Being part of it makes us feel safe.

To do this, you have to repeat the last three words that the other has spoken, or the most important of the last three.

Use empathy to accommodate emotions and win negotiation

There are those who advise to separate people from the problem, not to be touched by emotions. But how do you do when emotions are the problem?

Instead of denying them, the good negotiator identifies and influences them. The relationship between a negotiator and his counterpart is similar to that between psychotherapist and patient. In both cases, we work with emotions to change behavior. In both cases, you have to talk little and listen a lot.

You need to be able to think from another person’s point of view while you are talking to them and quickly evaluate what is driving them.

Empathy is a classic light skill, a so-called soft skill, but it has a physiological basis: when we carefully observe a person’s face, gestures and tone of voice, our brain aligns in a process called neuronal resonance, which it allows us to understand what others think and feel. Studies show that the process lapses when communication is poor.

Knowing how to use empathy allows you to achieve what, according to Sun Tzu, is the greatest victory: to win the enemy without fighting him.

Use the labeling technique to negotiate negativity

Identify emotions, transform them into words, bring them into full light showing that you understand what the person is feeling. In practice, it is a matter of describing the emotion that the other side is experiencing aloud, so as to convey deep understanding.

This tactic is called labeling, applying a definition. It is a way to validate the emotions of others, and above all it is the best way to negotiate negativity: you must observe it without reacting and without judging, then labeling every negative feeling, carefully describing it out loud and transforming it with positive proposals, aimed at suggest solutions.

The “no” as an opportunity to clarify any doubts about negotiation

For good negotiation, the word “no” is pure gold. It offers a great opportunity to clarify what you really want, eliminating what is not perceived as valuable. In addition, saying “no” is liberating, makes you feel secure and makes you feel in control.

Whenever possible, the negotiator should ask a question that has “no” as an answer, to get the other side to feel safe. Of course you need to learn to be told “no” and react in the right way, you have to rethink the word in one of these keys:

  • I’m still not ready to agree;
  • You’re making me feel uncomfortable;
  • I do not understand;
  • I don’t think I can do it;
  • I want something else;
  • I need more information; I want to talk about it with someone else.

Then apply the labeling and ask, “What of this is not good for you? What do you need to make it work for you? “.

Use “rule of three” to strengthen the deal

There are three types of “yes”: counterfeiting, confirmation, commitment. The “yes” of counterfeiting serves to carry on the discussion to find information, the confirmation one is often innocent, a conditioned reflection, a simple statement that does not promise concrete actions.

The third is what we have to get, that is, a sincere agreement that will correspond to a signature of the contract. There is a way to recognize them, “the rule of three”. In practice, action is taken to put the counterparty in the position of having to say three times yes to the same thing, reinforcing the agreement three times dynamically and bringing to light possible problems before they arise.

Since we often negotiate on the phone, or at any distance, it is important to apply techniques like this:

“So, do we agree?”
– Yes.
“I hear you say yes, but there seems to be a hesitation in your voice.”
– Oh, no, really.
“This is important, let’s make sure it’s all right.”
– Thanks, I appreciate it.

What value is “true” in negotiation

We all expect to get love and approval as a response to what we do, so the most important words when negotiating are “That’s right”.

On the contrary, “you’re right” does not have a great value, because often this answer is used for the sole purpose of silencing, getting rid of a nuisance. “It’s true”, for a negotiator, is a more important answer than a “yes”.

Turning time into an ally in the negotiation

Deadlines are the “black man” of any type of negotiation, and it is essential to be able to manage them. Failing a deadline, contrary to what is commonly thought, hardly ever produces sensational negative repercussions. Instead, trying at all costs to hit a deadline can lead to impulsive actions, to hasten negotiations, creating a climate that hinders the process and goes against the real interests at stake.

Manage the reactions of the interlocutor who evaluates the incorrect offer

People can reject an offer if they perceive it as incorrect. For the same person, even in slightly different circumstances, the same proposal can represent a victory or sound like an insult. It is essential to learn how to manage the reaction of those who feel treated incorrectly, a reaction called F-Bomb, fair-bomb.

There are three cases:

  • the interlocutor says : “I only want what is right”, a phrase that contains an implicit accusation. Before answering, take a break, breathe. Start by apologizing, then propose to go back to the negotiation to the point where things started to look incorrect;
  • the interlocutor openly accuses you of impropriety . Here the technique to use is ilmirroring: you have to answer: “Incorrect?” and continue doing labeling: “You seem to be thinking you’re not being treated properly”;
  • positively and constructively prevent the interlocutor . He declares: “I want you to understand that everything is done correctly here, and I ask you to warn me whenever you feel that you are not comfortable.

Remember that your reputation precedes you: if you build a reputation for honesty and fairness as a negotiator, you will have a winning weapon in every new circumstance.

Use the loss as an opportunity to close the deal

Theorized in 1979 by Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky, the loss aversion principle says that most people prefer to choose certainties instead of probabilities, although probabilities are the best offer.

More importantly, people are willing to take bigger risks to keep what they have than the risks they accept to earn something. In a negotiation it is important to underline what the counterparty risks losing if the agreement fails, even more than it is important to highlight what it is possible to grant you.

The tricks of the trade: silence, gifts and empathy

Often we underestimate what can be achieved simply by keeping silent, especially in economic negotiations. Neither party has all the information, and the information is power. If you can’t wait, you allude to a price range, it will make you look less aggressive.

According to the Columbia Business School studies, people who mentioned a price range during a job interview got higher wages than those who started the negotiation starting from a dry sum.

Other tricks to consider: offer something that is priceless (and that has no cost), or start negotiating by offering a gift. It is an unexpected conciliatory gesture that has a great effect and introduces a dynamic of reciprocity.

For example, to negotiate a better salary, create empathy with your boss to set up a constructive discussion, be kindly persistent on the non-economic part of the salary. If he cannot meet you on these requests, he will be induced to reward you economically.

Remember that you are selling yourself, do it with extreme care.

Delude the other party to be in control and what words to avoid

The aim is to make the counterparty believe that it is she who, independently, is deciding to do something that is useful to you, to make her think that that decision is her idea. You must not persuade others of the validity of your opinion, you must lead them to consider it their own.

Giving the other side the illusion of being in control will get you halfway to victory. To do this, use the “calibrated questions”, for example: “How do you think I can do this?”

Words such as “maybe”, “possible”, “I think”, “it seems”, calibrate open questions, leave space for the other side to interpret. Don’t force the other to admit you’re right. Aggressive confrontation is an enemy of constructive negotiation. Calibrated questions don’t offer targets to attack, so they disarm the other side.

They must be carefully prepared, here are the rules to follow:

  • avoid verbs like : power, being, doing;
  • avoid that the answer can be a simple yes or no ;
  • begin the sentence with words known as “journalist questions”: who, what, when, where, why and how.
    How would you like me to proceed? What’s wrong with this situation? How can we solve the problem? In this way you are implicitly asking the other party for help and this gives them the illusion of being in control;
  • bite your tongue . If you get attacked, take a break and avoid emotional reactions.

The use of pronouns in a negotiation

According to Deepack Malhotra, a professor at Harvard Business School, liars use more words than those who tell the truth. They use the third person more often. The sentences begin with pronouns like him, her, one, them, in order to put distance between themselves and the lie. They speak for more complex sentences. Instead of the nose, as happened to the puppet of Collodi, their sentences are lengthened.

The use of the pronoun can also help to perceive the importance of who is involved in the decision. The more they are in love with “me”, “me”, “mine”, the less important they are.

3 negotiation styles: analyst, easygoing and assertive

1. Negotiation style: the analyst

Methodical and diligent, he prefers to work alone and rarely deviates from his goals. He tends not to show emotions, he often speaks with the slow, measured “radio DJ voice of the night”.

By nature skeptical, asking too many questions could be a bad way to start, because he won’t want to answer before analyzing the situation. It is important to get prepared. Apologizing has little value, because he is used to seeing negotiation and the relationship with you as two separate things.

2. Negotiation style: the accommodator

The main factor is the time invested in building the relationship, because the easygoing negotiator wants to remain friends with the other party. Love compromise. He is sociable, peaceful, optimistic, so he tries to be the same.

It is easy to talk to him, all he wants is to listen to you, but his tendency to avoid conflict can leave important areas out of negotiation and make the knots come up too late.

3. Negotiation style: the assertive

For him time is money and every minute lost is a waste of money. Proud personality, loves to win, often at the expense of others, is always direct and uses an aggressive communication style. Base professional relationships on respect. Most of all, he wants to be heard and is focused on his goal. With the assertive, every pause of silence is a space for talking, you can use mirroring with a lot of utility.

The negotiation technique of Mike Ackerman

Ackerman, a real myth among the FBI negotiators, has developed this recipe for economic negotiations:

  • set your spending cap;
  • offer 65% of this target as the first offer;
  • calculate three rate of increase (85%, 95%, 100%);
  • use a lot of empathy and alternative ways of saying “no” before raising the offer;
  • when calculating the amount, use precise numbers, not rounded, to give the figure more credibility and weight;
  • add something non-monetary once you reach your spending cap, to show that you’ve reached your economic limit.

Knowing how to deal with the Black Swan in order not to interpose him on the piano

The Black Swan event represents what we don’t know we don’t know and can devastate our plans. The most important thing is to try to understand as soon as possible if we are facing a Black Swan, that is, something that we have never faced before.

We have to overcome various levels of blindness, being guided by what we know we know: asking many questions, paying even more attention to non-verbal language, analyzing any information that comes from – or about – the other side.

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