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This is an optimistic book, intended to make your life better. It starts with the principle that you can get more. No matter who you are, no matter what your personality, you can learn to be a better negotiator. You can get more.
In the twenty-plus years I have been teaching, I have had the palpable experience of watching people become better negotiators before my eyes. They became more aware of themselves and particularly others in their quest to get more in their lives through negotiation.
A lot of the tools that they learn in my class and use in their lives challenge the conventional wisdom. Many seem counterintuitive at first. But the success of my students’ day-to-day experiences, and their personal growth, are the markers of a new way of looking at human interactions. The Getting More process presented in this book redefines negotiation theory: simplifying it, eliminating the jargon, and providing a more practical, realistic, and effective way of dealing with others.
You will see how the conventional concepts of rationality, power, walking out, and “win-win” actually don’t work very well much of the time. Instead, strategies like emotional sensitivity, relationships, clear goals, being incremental, and viewing each situation as different are much more persuasive.
My students learn to get more by communicating even in the face of hostility, and by valuing the other side’s perceptions no matter what they are. They learn about the loss of profit from confrontation and “us versus them” tactics, and gain much more value by constantly pushing for collaboration. And they learn to handle hard bargainers by using their words against them in the least combative way. They offer trust but insist on commitments in return. They are not patsies. They meet their goals.
As mentioned throughout, the title of this book is Getting More, not Getting Everything. The book is intended to significantly improve the life of anyone who reads it and embraces its tools and strategies. Some elements will work sometimes; some will work better than others. It will teach you to determine what works best for you and train you to make those tools your own.
At the end of the day, Getting More is not about learning how to negotiate; it is about becoming a negotiator to your core, so these tools become as much a part of you as your personality. Once the tools are internalized, virtually every interaction you have will improve.
Not everything in this book will apply to you. Some of you don’t have children, and others are uninterested in public issues. But in writing this book I tried to communicate advice that touches a very broad audience. Something that you already know may be very fresh to someone else, and vice versa. The point is to identify what you can use, now and throughout your life, and key on it. Look for the things that can help you, that can add value to your life and the lives of others.
All of the material, whether applicable to you or not, is presented through the stories of my students and my own experiences, in the hope that their successes—and failures—will be interesting to you even as you are learning the tools.
Unless you practice with these tools, however, they will remain words on a page. You must see them work for you to own them.
You may think that some of the negotiation tools in this book cannot possibly work. But everything has been tested and tested again. They do work; often they tap into fundamental tenets of human psychology. If you’re skeptical, try them in nonrisky environments, and incrementally, and see what happens. You’re likely to be pleasantly surprised. Don’t do everything at once. Try something, feel it out, improve it for yourself, and then add something else. You have a lifetime to do this.
Finally, let me know how you are doing. I’m a teacher at heart. I want to know how my students are doing, and anyone else who addresses the material. Write me at www.gettingmore.com. This book is intended to begin a dialogue among those who have looked around at the world we live in, and decided it’s time to get more.
Haverford, Pennsylvania, August 12, 2010
My run slowed to a jog as we approached the gate for our flight to Paris. The plane was still there, but the door to the Jetway was shut. The gate agents were quietly sorting tickets. They had already retracted the hood connecting the Jetway to the airplane door.
“Hi, we’re on this flight!” I panted.
“Sorry,” said the agent. “We’re done boarding.”
“But our connecting flight landed just ten minutes ago. They promised us they would call ahead to the gate.”
“Sorry, we can’t board anyone after they’ve closed the door.”
My boyfriend and I walked to the window in disbelief. Our long weekend was about to fall to pieces. The plane waited right before our eyes. The sun had set, and the pilots’ downturned faces were bathed in the glow of their instrument panel. The whine of the engines intensified and a guy with lighted batons sauntered onto the tarmac.
I thought for a few seconds. Then I led my boyfriend to the center of the window right in front of the cockpit. We stood there, in plain sight, my entire being focused on the pilot, hoping to catch his eye.
One of the pilots looked up. He saw us standing forlornly in the window. I looked him in the eye, plaintively, pleadingly. I let my bags slump by my feet. We stood there for what seemed an eternity. Finally, the pilot’s lips moved and the other pilot looked up. I caught his eye, as well, and he nodded.
The engine whine softened and we heard the gate agent’s phone ring. She turned to us, wide-eyed. “Grab your stuff!” she said. “The pilot said to let you on!” Our vacation restored, we clutched each other joyously, snatched our bags, waved to the pilots, and tumbled down the Jetway to our plane.
—RAYENNE CHEN, Wharton Business School, Class of 2001
The story above, told to me by a student in my negotiation course, was clearly an account of a negotiation. Completely nonverbal, to be sure. But it was done in a conscious, structured, and highly effective way. And it used six separate negotiation tools that I teach that are, in practice, invisible to almost everyone.
What are they? First, be dispassionate; emotion destroys negotiations. You must force yourself to be calm.
Second, prepare, even for five seconds. Collect your thoughts.
Third, find the decision-maker. Here, it was the pilot. There was not a second to waste on the gate agent, who was not about to change company policy.
Fourth, focus on your goals, not on who is right. It didn’t matter if the connecting airline was late, or wrong in not calling ahead to the gate. The goal was to get on the plane to Paris.
Fifth, make human contact. People are almost everything in a negotiation.
And finally, acknowledge the other party’s position and power, valuing them. If you do, they will often use their authority to help you achieve your goals.
These tools are often very subtle. But they are not magic. They helped this young couple in a way they will remember for a lifetime. And they help to bring about successful negotiations, day in and day out, for those who have learned these tools from my courses. From getting a job to getting a raise, from dealing with kids to dealing with colleagues, the kind of negotiation practiced here has given upwards of thirty thousand people more power and control over their lives.
My goal with this book is to re-create my course on the page, making it available to readers everywhere. It offers a set of strategies, models, and tools that together will change the way you view and conduct virtually every human interaction. These teachings are very different from what you have read or studied about negotiation. Based on psychology, they don’t depend on “win-win” or “win-lose.” They don’t depend on being a “hard” or “soft” bargainer. They don’t depend on a rational world, on who has the most power, or on phrases that make much of negotiation seem inaccessible and impractical. Instead, they are based on how people perceive, think, feel, and live in the real world. And they will help anyone do what this book suggests: get more.
And that’s one of those instinctive human desires, isn’t it? More. Whenever you do almost anything, don’t you wonder if there’s more? It doesn’t have to mean more for me and less for you. It just has to be, well, more. And it doesn’t necessarily mean more money. It means more of whatever you value: more money, more time, more food, more love, more travel, more responsibility, more basketball, more TV, more music.
This book is about more: how you define it, how you get it, how you keep it. Whoever you are, wherever you are, the ideas and tools in this book were meant for you.
The world is full of negotiation books telling you how to get to yes, get past no, win, gain an advantage, close the deal, get leverage, influence or persuade others, be nice, be tough, and so forth.
But of those who finish reading them, few can go out and do it. Besides, sometimes you may want to get to no. Or you want to get to maybe. Or you just want to delay things. But, instinctively, you always want to get more of what you want.
In Getting More, I present this information in such a way that you will actually be able to use it—immediately—whether ordering a pizza or negotiating a billion-dollar deal or asking for a discount on a blouse or a pair of pants. This is what people who take my course are required to do. I tell them to use the strategies the same day, write them down in their journals, practice them, and use them again.
WHY IS THIS SO IMPORTANT?
Negotiation is at the heart of human interaction. Every time people interact, there is negotiation going on: verbally or nonverbally, consciously or unconsciously. Driving, talking to your kids, doing errands. You can’t get away from it. You can only do it well or badly.
That doesn’t mean you have to actively negotiate everything in your life all the time. But it does mean that those who are more conscious of the interactions around them get more of what they want in life.
There is an old maxim about the difference between expert and nonexpert knowledge. A nonexpert looks at a field and sees flat land. An expert looks at the same field and sees small peaks and valleys. It takes no more time and energy for the expert to collect the greater amount of information from that landscape. But the expert can make much better use of that information to pursue opportunities or minimize risks.
What we are talking about in Getting More is learning better negotiation tools so that you become exquisitely more conscious of the topography of your dealings with others.
Like Rayenne Chen at the opening of the book, most of those who have taken my course are ordinary people. But they have learned to achieve extraordinary results by negotiating with greater confidence and skill. More than one woman from India in my class, using tools from the course, persuaded her parents to let her out of her own arranged marriage. My advice on the negotiation process helped to end the 2008 Writers Guild strike. It is the same kind of advice taught in my classes and outlined in Chapter 2.
A business student who hadn’t made it past the first-round interview with eighteen firms took the course, applied my negotiation tools, and got twelve consecutive final-round interviews and the job of his choice. Parents get their young children to brush their teeth without complaint.
We added up the money made and saved by students using these tools: $7 here, $132 there, $1 million or more in some cases. The total exceeded $3 billion for about a third of the stories we have collected. And that doesn’t count the marriages saved, the jobs obtained, the deals concluded, the parents who were persuaded to go to the doctor, the kids who did just what they were asked.
Most of the more than 400 anecdotes in this book use the actual names of the people involved. They will tell you how they got a raise, achieved satisfaction after buying defective merchandise, got out of a speeding ticket, got their kids to do their homework, closed a deal—how, in a million ways, their lives became better. How they got more.
For me and the tens of thousands of people I’ve taught, unless these tools work in real life, we’re not interested.
Who are these people? They come from all walks of life, and myriad cultures. Senior executives of billion-dollar companies, housewives, students in school, salespeople, administrative assistants, executives, managers, lawyers, engineers, stockbrokers, truckers, union workers, artists—you name it. And they come from around the world: the United States, Japan, China, Russia, Colombia, Bolivia, South Africa, Kuwait, Jordan, Israel, Germany, France, England, Brazil, India, Vietnam, and so forth.
These tools work for all of them. And they will work for you, too.
Like Ben Friedman, who almost always asks the companies whose services he uses if new customers are treated better than existing, loyal customers like himself—for example, with discounts or other promotions. By asking that question one day, Ben got 33 percent off his existing New York Times subscription.
Or Soo Jin Kim, who looks for connections everywhere. One day she saved $200 a year for her daughter’s after-school French program. How? Before asking for a discount, she made a human connection with the school’s manager, talking about her trips to France. These strategies will save you a little here, a little there. But it can add up to many thousands of dollars a year.
Some make millions at the start. Paul Thurman, a management consultant in New York, reduced a large client’s expenses by 35 percent, an “incredible” twenty points more than he had been able to do before the course. He used standards, persistence, better questions, relationships, and being incremental, as learned in the course. The first-year savings was $34 million; by now it’s over $300 million, he said. “I have a major advantage in the marketplace,” he said.
Richard Morena, then the chief financial officer of the Asbury Park Press, got $245 million more for the company in its sale, and $1 million more for himself, by using standards, framing, and other course tools. “I’ll keep practicing,” he said. To benefit from the strategies in the book, as Richard did, you have to think differently about how you deal with others.
HOW THIS BOOK IS DIFFERENT
Below are the twelve major strategies that together make Getting More very different from what most people think negotiation is all about. These strategies will be expanded throughout the book, including the tools that support them and the perspectives that go with them. The strategies will be followed by chapters on how they are used in specific familiar applications, such as parenting, travel, and jobs.
The strategies together amount to a different way of thinking about negotiation. It’s the difference between saying “I play football” and “I play professional football.” The two are barely even the same game.
- Goals Are Paramount.
Goals are what you want at the end of the negotiation that you don’t have at the beginning. Clearly, you should negotiate to meet your goals. Many, if not most, people take actions contrary to their goals because they are focused on something else. They get mad in a store or relationship. They attack the wrong people. In a negotiation, you should not pursue relationships, interests, win-win, or anything else just because you think it’s an effective tool. Anything you do in a negotiation should explicitly bring you closer to your goals for that particular negotiation. Otherwise, it is irrelevant or damaging to you.
- It’s About Them.
You can’t persuade people of anything unless you know the pictures in their heads: their perceptions, sensibilities, needs, how they make commitments, whether they are trustworthy. Find out what third parties they respect and who can help you. How do they form relationships? Without this information, you won’t even know where to start. Think of yourself as the least important person in the negotiation. You must do role reversal, putting yourself in their shoes and trying to put them in yours. Using power or leverage can ultimately destroy relationships and cause retaliation. To be ultimately more effective (and persuasive), you have to get people to want to do things.
- Make Emotional Payments.
The world is irrational. And the more important a negotiation is to an individual, the more irrational he or she often becomes: whether in world peace or a billion-dollar deal, or when your child wants an ice-cream cone. When people are irrational, they are emotional. When they are emotional, they can’t listen. When they can’t listen, they can’t be persuaded. So your words are useless, especially those arguments intended for rational or reasonable people, like “win-win.” You need to tap into the other person’s emotional psyche with empathy, apologies if necessary, by valuing them or offering them other things that get them to think more clearly.
- Every Situation Is Different.
In a negotiation, there is no one-size-fits-all. Even having the same people on different days in the same negotiation can be a different situation. You must analyze every situation on its own. Averages, trends, statistics, or past problems don’t matter much if you want to get more today and tomorrow with the people in front of you. Blanket rules on how to negotiate with the Japanese or Muslims, or that state you should never make the first offer, are simply wrong. There are too many differences among people and situations to be so rigid in your thinking. The right answer to the statement “I hate you” is “Tell me more.” You learn what they are thinking or feeling, so that you can better persuade them.
- Incremental Is Best.
People often fail because they ask for too much all at once. They take steps that are too big. This scares people, makes the negotiation seem riskier, and magnifies differences. Take small steps, whether you are trying for raises or treaties. Lead people from the pictures in their heads to your goals, from the familiar to the unfamiliar, a step at a time. If there is little trust, it’s even more important to be incremental. Test each step. If there are big differences between parties, move slowly toward each other, narrowing the gap incrementally.
- Trade Things You Value Unequally.
All people value things unequally. First find out what each party cares and doesn’t care about, big and small, tangible and intangible, in the deal or outside the deal, rational and emotional. Then trade off items that one party values but the other party doesn’t. Trade holiday work for more vacation, TV time for more homework, a lower price for more referrals. This strategy is much broader than “interests” or “needs,” in that it uses all the experiences and synapses of people’s lives. And it greatly expands the pie, creating more opportunities, at home as well as the office. It is rarely done the way it should be.
- Find Their Standards.
What are their policies, exceptions to policies, precedents, past statements, ways they make decisions? Use these to get more. Name their bad behavior when they are not consistent with their policies. Did they ever allow late hotel checkout? Will they agree that no one should interrupt anyone else? Should innocent people be harmed? Isn’t high customer service part of their promise? This is especially effective in dealing with hard bargainers.
- Be Transparent and Constructive, Not Manipulative.
This is one of the biggest differences between Getting More and the conventional wisdom. Don’t deceive people. They will find out and the long-term payoff is poor. Be yourself. Stop trying to be tougher, nicer, or something you’re not. People can detect fakers. Being real is highly credible, and credibility is your biggest asset. If you’re in a bad mood or too aggressive, or don’t know something, say so. It will help take the issue away. Your approach and your attitude are critical. This does not mean being a patsy or disclosing everything up front. It does mean being honest, being real.
- Always Communicate, State the Obvious, Frame the Vision.
Most failed negotiations are caused by bad communication, or none at all. Don’t walk away from a negotiation unless all parties agree to take a break—or unless you want to end the negotiation. Not communicating means not getting information. Threatening or blaming the other party just results in their responding in kind: valuing them gets more. The best negotiators state the obvious. They will say, “We don’t seem to be getting along.” Package what’s going on in a few words to give them a vision of where you want them to go: “Is it your goal to make your customers happy?” 10. Find the Real Problem and Make It an Opportunity.
Few people find or fix the real, underlying problem in negotiations. Ask, “What is really preventing me from meeting my goals?” To find the real problem, you have to find out why the other party is acting the way they are. It may not be obvious at first. You have to probe until you find it. You have to get into their shoes. A dispute over a child’s curfew or a business valuation may really be a problem of trust and an opportunity for a better relationship. And problems are only the start of the analysis. They usually can be turned into negotiation opportunities. View problems as such.
- Embrace Differences.
Most people think different is worse, risky, annoying, uncomfortable. But different is actually demonstrably better: more profitable, more creative. It leads to more perceptions, more ideas, more options, better negotiations, better results. Asking a few more questions about differences will produce more trust and better agreements. Companies, countries, and civilizations have shown repeatedly by their actions how they hate differences, despite their public relations statements. Great negotiators love differences.
- Prepare—Make a List and Practice with It.
These strategies are the start of a List, which is the entire collection of negotiation strategies, tools, and models. The List is like a pantry, from which you choose items for every meal. From the List, you would choose specific items to help you in an individual negotiation based on the specific situation. One is a tool: that is, a specific action to implement a strategy. Apologies and concessions are tools to help you implement the emotional payments strategy. Strategies and tools in this book are organized into a Getting More Model for easy reference. The list is on my website, www.gettingmore.com. You should make your own List. If you don’t have a List, you aren’t prepared. If you aren’t prepared, you won’t do as well. Even spending a few minutes with the List produces better results. Keep pursuing the List—be persistent—until you meet your goals. That means you need to practice with these strategies and tools and review them after each negotiation.
The effectiveness of these models and strategies, and of the individual tools that support them, have been confirmed by the 30,000 students and professionals from dozens of countries I have taught. Their experiences are documented in more than 100,000 journals, emails, and notes they have written, as well as in countless interviews and conversations over more than twenty years.
All of that is backed by further research and consultation, and my own practical experience over forty years as a teacher, researcher, journalist, lawyer, business executive, and negotiation practitioner. Much of what this book discusses will seem counterintuitive. But it works, in the real world, immediately. In Getting More, you will see exactly how.
Two things are evident about these strategies and many of the tools presented here. First, they are not rocket science. Second, unless you already know what they are, they are invisible, buried in ordinary language.
“I started to realize,” said Eric Stark, an MBA student at the University of Southern California, “that the people I was negotiating with had no idea what I was doing. They had no idea.” Now a telecommunications and Internet expert, he says that this is still true, fifteen years after the class.
My most common opening in a negotiation is “What’s going on?” Seems like an ordinary question. But there are at least four tools folded into that question. First, it helps to establish a relationship with the other person—you start out informal and chatty. Second, it is a question—questions are a great way to collect information. Third, it focuses first on the other party and their feelings and perceptions, instead of on “the deal.” Fourth, it consists of small talk to establish a comfort level between us.
Unless you explicitly know what the tools are, you can’t replicate them effectively from situation to situation. You just keep going on instinct. And you can’t get much better at negotiating that way.
A few years ago I was negotiating with someone on a very snowy day. I started the negotiation by saying with some frustration, “How about this snow?” To which the other person replied, “Actually, I love the snow. I love to ski.” So then I said, “Well, how do you feel about the heat?” Why did I say that? Unless you can identify the exact negotiation tool used, you can’t do much better, because you can’t consciously replicate it in future negotiations. I was trying to find a common enemy. Common enemies bring parties closer together and make the negotiation easier. That’s why people complain about the weather; it establishes a human connection, and a shared vantage point. People complain half-jokingly about attorneys, or traffic, or bureaucracy for exactly that reason.
Most people are unaware of the “common enemies” tool. It is invisible to you. You can’t make it visible unless someone tells you about it. Mutual needs are also good (although with less psychological impact) if you can find them at the start of negotiations.
These strategies and tools are also invisible because they are relatively new, at least in how they are used. The modern field of negotiation, created by lawyers around 1980, focused on resolving conflicts. This was good but incomplete. It protected the downside of a negotiation, but didn’t focus as much on the upside. Economists got more involved in the negotiation field in the 1990s and developed more strategies to make money and gain opportunity. But this was also incomplete, because it relied on people being rational.
Getting More accounts for these factors, of course, but it also focuses on the psychology of the people involved. This is what most of negotiation should be about: the pictures in people’s heads. You can’t discover the opportunity or the resolution of conflict unless you think hard about the psychology of the other person.
WHAT THIS BOOK IS NOT
Getting More is not a manifesto to gain power over people in order to force your will on them. “Power,” or “leverage,” is greatly overrated as a negotiation device. Most negotiation teaching, as well as portrayals of negotiation in movies and TV, urges people to gain advantage over the other party so you can force them to do what you want. This has many problems.
First, the moment you use raw power over someone, the relationship is usually over. People don’t want relationships with those who try to force them to do things against their will. Second, it sends the wrong message—one of tension, struggle, and conflict. This is less profitable because people use their energy to defend themselves instead of building something. Third, the raw use of power prompts retribution, whether now or later, whether “malicious obedience” at work, or suicide bombers worldwide. Fourth, using power over reluctant subjects is expensive, as will be seen below. Finally, if it’s overused, you will often lose your power when others see it expressed.
Power must be used gingerly, tactfully, with the approval of others (in the military or courts, for example), and for fairness. One should know about the power balance in order to understand how to promote fairness in a negotiation and meet your goals. And these strategies give you power; it’s the application, how you use them, that matters. Inherently, they are morally neutral: they can be used for good or ill, like science or kitchen knives. It is okay to increase your power with hard bargainers who are acting unfairly or trying to hurt you with their power. It is, for example, a great tool for beleaguered consumers to use with unfair companies. It is okay to seek other options if your counterpart is unfairly pressing you. But you always have to be conscious and careful of its abuse.
As seen below, use of power or leverage is a form of negotiation; it’s usually just not a very good one. It’s more expensive and less self-enforcing. If I persuade you to willingly do something, it’s usually not very expensive. If I can’t do that, I might have to turn to an outside party, such as an attorney, to negotiate for me. If the attorney can’t persuade you, then the attorney will turn to another outsider, such as a judge or jury. The attorney then negotiates with that outsider, who can then force you to do what you don’t want to do. As you can see, there is still negotiation going on, but the more parties and force I add, the more expensive it becomes. As a last resort it may be needed, but not as an early choice, and certainly not as a knee-jerk one. It is a premise of this book that by using better negotiation skills, you can persuade more people, by yourself, to do things willingly.
The invisible strategies stated above can be a major source of competitive advantage. Nonetheless, you should share them with the other side. This way, they won’t feel manipulated, and you will get more over the long term.
This book is also not about “best alternative to a negotiated agreement”—BATNA—or other acronyms that seem handy. In reality, they cause people to focus more on walking away than on working out something better with the other party. I often say, “Let’s assume everyone can walk away and do fine. Given that, can we get more in negotiating with each other?” “Bargaining range” is another item less useful than many people think. You might know the monetary bargaining range: the highest the buyer will pay and the lowest the seller will accept. But you can change the bargaining range by adding other elements to a negotiation, such as by trading items of unequal value. So the more creative you are, the less useful bargaining range, BATNA, and its various cousins are.
After all is said and done, there may be a better alternative to the option you finally develop. And you should explore your options. But first you should find out what you can do with the people in front of you, as creatively as possible. And if you use your options to beat up the other party, it’s like going on a date and mentioning all the other people you could go out with. The relationship will probably not get far. I will return repeatedly in Getting More to the problems with power. It’s easy to fall back into old habits, as in, let’s make them do it. I want to make sure this doesn’t happen.
A NEW DEFINITION OF NEGOTIATION
Let’s start our journey with a new definition of what negotiation is. First, done right, there is no difference between “negotiation,” “persuasion,” “communication,” or “selling.” They all should have the same process. That is, they should start with goals, focus on people, and be situational.
Let’s dispense with negotiating phrases such as making a “series of mutual concessions” or “finding a positive settlement range.” And it’s not true that people are either “cooperative” or “competitive.” How they behave often depends on the situation. People and situations don’t fit into neat little boxes.
Instead, let’s define negotiation in ways that will help you organize what you actually need to do, and give you a better window into the process. This definition of negotiation has four levels, beginning with the most superficial.
Negotiation is the process of:
- Forcing People to Do What You Will Them to Do. This involves threats, violence, take-it-or-leave-it demands, the use of raw power. Of course this is negotiation—you’ve persuaded people that unless they do it your way, at least for the time being, you will beat them black and blue. And sometimes it works: battles and wars have been won. Aggression has sometimes carried the day.
The main problem with force is not that it doesn’t work. With $20 trillion, the United States can probably do whatever it wants in the Middle East for the foreseeable future. With virtually unlimited resources, the United States could probably do whatever it wanted in Afghanistan or anywhere else. The problem is that force is very expensive, is not reinforcing, and as such takes a long time, if not forever, for continued compliance. So the questions to ask include: Is force the best use of my resources? Is this the easiest way to meet our goals over time? For example, if you use violence and don’t wipe out the other side, they will probably keep fighting. If you threaten them, they will find a way to get back at you. Mostly, you’ve persuaded them not to fight back today.
In limited, specific situations, raw power might be justified. But to watch TV or the movies, or listen to many leaders, you’d think it is the human behavior of choice. In fact, it is the most suboptimal choice. Overall, it’s not as profitable or effective as other choices. Look how expensive it is to fight someone in court.
- Getting People to Think What You Want Them to Think. This second level is better: getting people to see the rational benefit in your idea. This is what has been called “interest-based negotiation,” and popularized in many negotiation books. However, it depends on people being rational.
But in the real world, it usually doesn’t carry the day by itself. Most important negotiations have a big emotional component. There is often a lot of irrational behavior. The more important the negotiation is to the other party, the less interest-based negotiation works. A family quarrel over where to go on vacation, or a workplace argument over who gets what office, is hard to settle with interest-based negotiation alone. It’s not enough to focus on what rational or reasonable people think might work well.
And that brings us to what is really effective in negotiation, persuasion, and communication. This is where the real success in dealing with others begins.
- Getting People to Perceive What You Want Them to Perceive. Now you are looking at the world the way the other side does. And you are thinking of ways to change their perceptions. You are starting with the pictures in their heads. This is the right place to begin in order to persuade them.
Misperception, often from communication failures, causes conflict and negotiation breakdowns everywhere, every day. Understanding others’ perceptions is essential to successful negotiation. You then change their perceptions incrementally. It will actually make the negotiation shorter, more self-enforcing, and easier.
- Getting People to Feel What You Want Them to Feel. This approach is totally self-enforcing. You are tapping into their emotions, their “irrationality,” if you will. Almost everyone views the world through their own feelings and perceptions. When the pressure is on, when the stakes are high, their feelings usually take over—whether evident or not. A negotiation that considers feelings is much broader than “interests.” And it includes all needs—the entire menu of what people want—from the reasonable to the crazy. When the other party realizes you care about their feelings, they will listen more, making them more persuadable.
In my experiance, few people acknowledge or use this in negotiations. Imagine opposing attorneys, or sports owners with striking players, or the United States with Iran, saying, “Before we sit down to formally talk about the issues, how do you guys feel? Are you happy? What is your favorite food? How’s your family?” And yet this is what is required to get the best results. Throughout this book, you will see that people who did this negotiated better and got more.
All of this material—strategies, tools, models, attitudes—taken together is a negotiation process. It is a way of talking to others, a way of conducting yourself, a way that will help you get better results. Though a separate skill, it is intended to become part of you; effective negotiation becomes as natural as talking. It is not something done at a table or in a formal setting. It is your life.
The facts will change from situation to situation. But the process should not. Doing this well will enable you to negotiate anything, with anyone, anywhere, anytime.
Near the beginning of my courses I ask students, “Who negotiated something today?” It doesn’t matter what the negotiation is about: a hot dog or a hot job. Each event can be broken down and deconstructed into its essential elements in the same way. These elements can then be examined, learned, and put back together again so you can negotiate at a higher level.
Think how much more effective you would be if you spent ten or fifteen minutes before a negotiation going down the List and asking how each strategy applies in this instance. Did you find out enough about the other party? Are your goals clearly defined? Are you being incremental enough? Afterward, you will assess how you did using the List, perhaps changing it a little, and learning for next time.
This is called an inductive process: starting from each situation and then figuring out the exact strategies and tools that are likely to be most effective. It’s also knowledge you can then bring with you to the next negotiation. You might, for example, find that standards worked well in one situation, an appeal to relationships worked in another, and focusing on individual needs worked in a third.
Now let’s start going over the List so that I can persuade you to think differently.
This is one of the big differences between the advice in Getting More and what you’ve likely read elsewhere about negotiation. Goals are not just another negotiation tool to use. Goals are the be-all and end-all of negotiations. You negotiate to meet your goals. Everything else is subservient to that.
The goals are what you are trying to accomplish. Don’t try to establish a relationship unless it brings you closer to your goals. Don’t deal with others’ interests or needs or feelings or anything else unless it brings you closer to your goals. Don’t give or get information unless it brings you closer to your goals.
This is a really big point. People shouldn’t negotiate to achieve “win-win” or to create a “relationship” or to get to “yes” unless it aligns with their goals. “Win-win” is overused; it sounds vaguely manipulative. When people say to me, “Let’s go for a win-win,” I think, “So they want something from me.” The point of negotiation is to get what you want. Why should you negotiate to create a relationship if it won’t help you meet your goals? Why should you try for a win-win if others continue to try to hurt your career?
Maybe you actually want a “lose-win” outcome. You want to lose today, so they will give you more tomorrow. Maybe you want a “lose-lose,” so you can both see how that feels. Maybe you want a “win-lose” outcome, in order to train them to act differently next time.
Don’t get distracted and clouded with other stuff—being nice, being tough, being emotional, etc. Never take your eyes off the goal. It’s what you want at the end of the process that you don’t have now.
Much has been written about meeting goals. Studies show that goal-setting is one of the most important things someone can do for themselves. The mere act of setting a goal has been shown to increase performance by more than 25 percent.
What’s invisible is not that no one knows they need to identify and meet their goals. What’s invisible is that they don’t do it! They don’t do it because they don’t focus on it. They don’t do it because they get distracted. And then, if they finally start doing it, they don’t complete it—they lose their way in the middle.
Some executives dismiss this advice with a wave of the hand. “We learned this stuff in business school,” they say. Then why don’t they do it?
It’s important to execute things in a focused, ordered way. It’s not enough to say, “Meet your goals.” We need to know exactly how to do this. The first thing you need to do is decide what your goal is, explicitly, at the beginning and remind yourself often along the way.
What’s your goal in going to the store? Knowing that in advance will stop you from wasting money on impulse buying. What’s your goal in discussing vacation plans with your family? To prove who’s right? To punish them for something else? Or to decide on a vacation you can take that will be nice for all of you?
How many times have you gone to a meeting and said to the people there, “What do you want at the end of this meeting that you don’t have now?” If you haven’t done this before, try it. It’s very effective. Although people will sometimes lie or refuse to say, by and large people will tell you. And you will quickly find out whether everyone thinks they are at the same meeting with the same goals. Even a slight difference in goals can wind up as a mess in a negotiation.
Write down your goals and remind yourself. Have friends and colleagues remind you. Not just at the beginning of the process, but all along the way.
Not having a goal is like getting into the car without knowing where you are headed. And not checking your goals is like not checking the map along the way. People often get distracted in the middle of a meeting or a campaign. New information often emerges. Unless you check your goals at intervals, you are less likely to meet them. It doesn’t matter how well you know the company or person.
I knew an executive who was hired as vice president for strategy at a leading U.S. firm. Just after she arrived, she wrote a note to the other twelve senior executives, inviting them to a meeting, asking them to bring their goals for the company.
After receiving the note, the company’s CEO called her up and said, “Wait a minute. You just got here. We’ve been working here for years—we know our goals for the company.”
“Fair enough,” the new vice president said. “But you asked me to work on corporate strategy. I promise you that if you let the meeting happen, it will be worthwhile. And it won’t take very long.” The CEO said okay.
The other twelve senior executives came to the meeting with their goals for the company. The strategy vice president wrote them up on the board, one by one. At the end, the twelve executives saw that they actually had not one, or two, or three, or four goals. They had fourteen different goals. And most of these goals contradicted each other. “Oh,” they said.
The more specific your goals, the better. “I’d like to go to Chicago” is better than “I’d like to go to Illinois.” “Let’s put a man on the moon” is better than “Let’s explore space.” “I want to graduate from college” is not as good as “I want to get at least Bs while I’m writing a book.” Too often, people think they can meet their goals only at the expense of others. You need to think about their goals as well as yours, or others will soon give you less. If you meet your goals today at the expense of the long term, you have served yourself poorly. Getting More means meeting your goals for all relevant people and periods.
Once you have identified your goals, it is important to keep asking, “Are my actions meeting my goals?” The world is full of people who fail to do this. They get emotional or distracted or are just not thinking this way. It goes for you, and it goes for others you care about.
Angela Arnold’s father had a stroke. He wanted to leave the hospital before his rehab was complete. Angela, now a consultant, asked her father what he was most looking forward to at home. “Walking Ringo,” his dog, Angela’s father said. “Well,” Angela said, “if you want to walk Ringo, and you leave the hospital now, you won’t be able to walk Ringo.” She said if he finished rehab, he’d be able to walk unassisted upon discharge. Then he could walk Ringo. Angela showed her father that his proposal would not have met his goals. Her father finished rehab.
Here’s a new definition of competitiveness: your ability to meet your goals. This flies in the face of centuries of business thinking. Even today, the philosophy of Scottish economist Adam Smith (1723–1790) is predominant. Smith, widely cited as the father of modern economics, saw competitiveness as maximizing self-interest. It has been viewed since then as gaining power over opponents, winner takes all, taking no prisoners; some later called it economic Darwinism.
Today the most “competitive people” are replacing this with the thinking of John Nash, a Princeton University mathematician who won the 1994 Nobel Prize and was popularized in the movie A Beautiful Mind.
Nash proved mathematically the 1755 theory of Swiss philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau that when parties collaborate, the overall size of the pie almost always expands, so each party gets more than it could get alone. The typical example is that four hunters can each catch only one rabbit while acting alone, but they can catch a deer together.
Today, smart competitors collaborate whenever they can. Consider the PowerBook computer created among IBM, Apple, and Motorola. Or strategic alliances for research or marketing among pharmaceutical firms. Research shows that almost 90 percent of the time, people in cooperative environments perform better than people in traditional, “competitive,” win-lose environments. In other words, performance contests in general don’t enhance performance.
You might say, skeptically, that some pies can’t be expanded, and that if one party wins, the other loses. If I ask for an example, the number-one answer people give is land. To which I reply, “Fine, if land is important to you, you take Congo, I’ll take Japan.” In other words, not all land is equal. There are lots of ways to compete. Don’t get locked in to one dimension.
Again, write your goals down. Check them often.
YOU—YOUR ATTITUDE, CREDIBILITY, TRANSPARENCY
The attitude you bring to a negotiation has a direct impact on the result you get. If you come to a negotiation expecting a war, you will get one. And you will get less. Studies show that adversarial negotiators make about half as many deals as do more cooperative, problem-solving negotiators. And they get about half as much from the deals they do make. So if you are confrontational, expect about 25 percent of what’s possible.
If you are in a lousy mood, it’s not the right time to negotiate. Even if you are the company expert, you may not be the right person to negotiate if you can’t connect with the other party.
This does not mean you should try to be someone else. Most people are bad at acting. People will detect it and you will lose your credibility. The most important asset you have in any human interaction is your credibility. If people don’t believe you, it’s hard to convince them of anything. Your credibility is more important than your expertise, connections, intelligence, assets, and looks.
Instead, you should use Getting More to learn how to be yourself better. There is no special way to talk. The strategies and tools in this book should become part of you, whoever you are.
People appreciate it when others are straight with them, no matter what “straight” is. This should lift the burden of having to be someone you are not.
This means, if you are very aggressive, warn people in the beginning. “If I get too aggressive, let me know.” What does this do? First, it takes away the issue by resetting expectations. Second, it makes you more real; it increases your credibility. Third, it eliminates the need for you to do any sort of dance, to act in a way that is unnatural to you. Now you can focus on meeting your goals.
And if you are overly accommodating, let people know that you often give away too much and have to backtrack later. So they need to tell you if the deal is getting unfair. You give them the responsibility and give yourself an out if they try to take advantage of your generosity. Then you can be yourself.
When I go to another country and don’t know the culture well, I will often apologize in advance. I will tell the other person, “I might accidentally say something inappropriate. I wish I knew your culture better. Every time I make a mistake, could you please advise me?” I’ve now turned every instance of potential conflict into an instance of collaboration, in which they are my advisors. And I have taken away the tension from cultural mistakes. I can be myself.
Great negotiators have a firm grasp of the obvious. If you are not getting along in a negotiation with the other party, you should say, “I don’t think we’re getting along here. Why not?” You might as well say it. The other party is thinking it. It’s like an 800-pound gorilla in the room. It will prevent getting a decent agreement. If you are in a bad mood, tell the other side, “I’m in a bad mood.” It will cause them to forgive some things they might not otherwise.
Transparency also means you should share these tools with the other side. The more people who know of these tools, the better the negotiation will be. Because this is not about getting the better of someone. This is about getting more. So give the List to your spouse, your kids, your friends, and your business associates.
This is counterintuitive to most people. Most negotiators think they should be anything but transparent. However, the result is a lack of trust. This doesn’t mean you have to disclose everything. It does mean you should disclose as much as you can to meet your goals and make the other side comfortable. For the rest you can say, “I’m just not comfortable telling you this yet.” Effective negotiators are never satisfied with anything: their performance, results, process. This doesn’t mean they are unhappy. It doesn’t mean they are unsuccessful. It just means they continually try to figure out if they can get more.
Even as you are celebrating a successful deal, you should be saying to yourself: Was the relationship as good as it could have been? Did we do any cross-selling? Could we have done it faster or better? This is what pushes good negotiators to get even better.
My best students want to be criticized; they know that each mistake makes them stronger once they understand it. They are not likely to make that mistake again. I am always asking for criticism. You should, too.
In our imaginations, big, bold moves produce big successes. In the real world, big, bold moves mostly scare people away: you are trying to go too far, too fast. Small, incremental steps accomplish more. This is especially true if two parties are far apart in a negotiation.
Incremental steps give other people a chance to catch their breath, look around, decide if the steps you’ve taken feel good, and then move on with confidence. Incremental steps anchor people to the step or steps they have already accepted. They reduce the perceived risk of moving forward.
An analogy: If you are a .280 hitter in baseball, and you get one extra hit every nine games, you become a .310 hitter in baseball. And that is worth a spot in the Baseball Hall of Fame, and $10 million more a year in compensation. All for one extra hit every thirty-six times at bat.
I’m not trying to hit home runs in negotiations. I’m trying to get one extra hit every nine games. It’s a good lesson for negotiation, and a good lesson for life. A few incremental improvements and you will be fabulously more successful.
But let’s not carry the sports analogy too far. In sports, the goal is for each side to win. Life is not a sports game. In sports, it is expected that one side will lose. There is a finite game, tournament, or season. In life, there is a tomorrow, and it is expected (at least normally) for people to all get something.
Even so, don’t be greedy. It turns people off and causes them to distrust you and give you less. When you try to get a little more, you fall below most people’s radar screens. Your proposal is digestible. You can always ask for more the next time. I tell my students, “Every ceiling is a new floor.” Jan Carlson, the legendary European SAS airline executive, once said, “The difference between success and failure is … two millimeters.” In other words, it’s something as seemingly insignificant as a turn of phrase. A look. A small gesture. The tools that work are very small, subtle, and yet very effective.
The title of this book is Getting More, not Getting Everything. No negotiation tools and strategies work all the time. But they work more often than if you don’t use them! This is not intended to make you perfect. It is intended to make you better, every day.
Start with the easy things in a negotiation, and scale up from there. If you can increase your success by even a few percent in your negotiations with others, you will be fabulously more successful. Anyone who tells you that this or that strategy always works is blowing smoke at you. Again, all you’re looking for is that one extra hit every nine games.
“Before this course, my tactics worked about fifty percent of the time; I thought I was a pretty good negotiator,” said Gerald Singleton, a former student of mine at USC. “Now I use better tools and they work seventy-five percent of the time. For me, that’s much better. And I have a framework to keep improving throughout my life.” EVERYTHING IS SITUATIONAL
Here is my entire negotiation course in three broad questions.
What are my goals? Who are “they”? What will it take to persuade them?
Every negotiation, every situation is different. That’s because there are different people in the negotiation. Or the same people on different days. Or a different set of facts and circumstances. Or a different goal. So I need to ask these questions for every situation.
The third question depends on the answers to the first two. And this is why you need the List. You choose from the List, and from the various supporting individual tools, based on goals and people. You may act differently in two negotiations on the same subject, with the same facts. That’s because either the goals or the people, or both, are different. There is no one-size-fits-all.
If anyone says to you, “Here’s how you negotiate real estate deals,” be skeptical. They may know various real estate tactics that work sometimes, or sort of. They may have real estate expertise. But until you define your goals and the people involved in that particular situation, you can’t effectively decide what negotiation tools to use.
The people involved in a negotiation, and the process they use, comprise more than 90 percent of what is important in a negotiation. The substance, the facts, and the expertise make up less than 10 percent. This is quite counterintuitive for most people.
THE QUESTION OF POWER
Let’s continue this conversation. First, let’s define power as your ability to meet your goals over all relevant time frames. In other words, you need enough power to meet your goals, but not more. Power for its own sake is almost always useless; in fact, as I explained earlier, it can be harmful. Lessening the misuse of power by the other side is important only if it enhances your ability to meet your goals.
Although the tools in Getting More give you more power, they need to be used carefully. And raw power is much more fragile than usually assumed. If you overuse your power, for example, you can lose your power. If you are too extreme, you can seem unreasonable to others and lessen your ability to meet your goals. People hate it when others try to exert power over them. They then try to undermine you and change the power balance.
There is a relationship between power and negotiation skill. Consider this: women stereotypically tend to be better negotiators than men. First, women listen more. They collect more information. And more information leads to better persuasion and better results. Second, women try a lot harder than men to learn the tools in Getting More. That’s because we still live in a male-dominated world. Women have less raw power, and this is too often used against them.
When you have a lot of raw power, your tool of choice is figuratively the baseball bat. As noted, this invites retaliation. When you have less power, you learn to use tools that are more subtle, less noticeable, even invisible to those with raw power. There is less risk of retaliation. Women comprise about 30 percent of the students who take my courses, but they get a much higher percentage of the highest grades. The subtler tools are ultimately more effective.
This is why small countries—Sweden, Switzerland, Malta—are more often thought of as better at conflict resolution than large countries. And it is why children are better negotiators than adults. And it’s why children tend to lose those tools as they grow up and get a baseball bat—raw power. The better negotiators watch other parties carefully, focus on the other party, and ultimately meet their own goals more effectively. Studies show that less powerful parties tend to be more creative than more powerful ones.
As such, power is a complicated concept. People like to have power. So, by giving people power or validating their power, they feel good and will give things to you in return. We see this with children. The key is to be very sensitive to the implications, especially the long-term ones, of the use—and especially the misuse—of power.
IMPLEMENTING THE STRATEGIES AND TOOLS
It’s not enough to know the negotiation strategies and tools in this book. You have to be able to use them in real time. If you can’t, they are useless to you. This is a critical point. The world is full of great negotiation thinkers who have read books, have taken courses, and can have great discussions about negotiations. The world is not full of great negotiators who can execute successful negotiations in real time.
Let’s say you are negotiating for a table at a crowded restaurant where you don’t have a reservation. What do you do? How do you start with this particular maître d’ in this particular situation?
Knowing the rules of negotiation doesn’t mean that you can negotiate well—any more than you can beat a world-class tennis player because you have read forty-two books on tennis.
A main purpose of this book is to turn conceptual knowledge into operational knowledge, presenting step-by-step strategies with examples that, with practice, work in the real world. This book is like a first tennis lesson. To get better, you need to practice with these tools.
Rayenne Chen, the woman at the beginning of the book who got the pilots to bring back the plane, had a List. That was her starting point. But it wasn’t enough. Her List was internalized through practice: conscious practice.
The same tools can be applied to widely different situations. So you don’t have to practice on big things where there will be serious consequences if you make a mistake. Start with small things.
Go into a clothing store where things seem never to be on sale and ask the manager for a discount. They will probably say no. Ask if they have personal shoppers. Personal shoppers often work on commission—they make money only when you buy something. They are going to go out of their way to make a deal. Ask for their business card. Ask the manager or the personal shopper what the store does for loyal customers.
It doesn’t matter if the item you get a discount on is priced at $1. You are practicing for $10,000 or $100,000 items in the future—it’s the same process. I used to practice on practically every situation imaginable. My friends would make fun of me. They stopped making fun of me when they needed help and I did things they could not.
Great negotiators are made, not born. Excellence comes from focus and practice. I have taught people who were initially terrible at negotiation, but they soared in a single semester. In other words, creating a List is not enough. You have to implement it, over and over, and learn from your mistakes. It is not hard to learn.
Wei-Wei Wang, a slight woman in my negotiation class at the University of Southern California, was very timid at first. She avoided most negotiations and had a hard time meeting her goals.
So I suggested that she take a communication and presentation course first, to get her confidence up. “No, Professor Diamond,” she said. “I really want to take this course. Throw the book at me.” “Okay,” I said. So for the next twelve weeks of the course, I pitted her against the class bully every chance I could: a hard bargainer four times her size, with the sensibilities of a meat-ax. But she was very diligent and learned the course tools very well. During the last session, she had a negotiation with this guy in front of the class. And she handed him his head, to a standing ovation, including from this guy.
She didn’t realize how good she was getting. Halfway through the course, she wrote me a note: “Professor Diamond, I’m very frustrated. I’ve done everything you said. I’ve learned the negotiation tools, I’ve practiced the negotiation tools. I prepare for negotiations, I go on negotiations. But before I get to use everything, they say yes. How do I practice more?” If you have prepared and practiced, other people will sense it. And they will give you more. No matter where you start from.
Of course, you have to consciously decide to negotiate. Our surveys show that most people think they negotiate about fourteen hours a week. In reality, almost everyone negotiates more than forty hours a week. They’re just not conscious of the rest. The more you consciously use negotiation tools, the more you will get more.
Learning these tools does not happen in a straight line. This is why I repeat certain ideas in this book in different contexts to give you a better understanding of what you have to do. I find that when I provide a new idea for my students, and later double back and repeat the same idea in a slightly different way, they learn more. In that sense, Getting More is delivered like a course. You deconstruct your behavior, you look at each part and improve it, and then you put it back together again.
It’s like learning a sport. To get better, you identify every part of your game, focus on the weak spots, improve them, and then put your game back together again. It’s similar to learning how to play the piano or drive a car.
Different strategies and tools work better in different situations. But using the three questions to organize a process is the same for any negotiation: whether you are asking for a discount at a deli or trying to work out a billion-dollar deal. This is why good negotiators can negotiate anything, and bad negotiators can’t negotiate anything.
Even the smartest, most capable and respected people around make mistakes if they don’t use the kinds of tools in this book. This is a new and evolving field. Good instincts are not enough.
So use the List. Take it with you from negotiation to negotiation. Figure out what you did right and wrong the last time. Modify your List. Do this often. Practice one strategy at a time. See what happens. Learn from it, then do it again.
EVERYONE BENEFITS FROM COACHING
Getting More is essentially a series of coaching sessions. It is designed to take anyone at any level and make them better at negotiating. Everyone needs coaching. In fact, the more expert you are in something, the more you need a coach to stay competitive.
Imagine Olympic swimming champion Michael Phelps, or seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong. When Armstrong wins a race, does he say, “Well, I’ve got this nailed; don’t have to practice anymore”? Of course not! The same is true with anyone who is negotiating something, whether it’s a million-dollar contract or a shirt with a missing button that has to be returned to the dry cleaner.
Ilan Rosenberg is a seasoned attorney in Philadelphia who took my course to improve his negotiation skills. After just one class, he went to Mexico to try to restart a long-stalled deal. Following what he learned in class, he didn’t start by discussing the deal terms. Instead, he tried to get to know the other person—his hopes, dreams, fears. After initial surprise, the other guy opened up and told Ilan what was bothering him. The result? “We closed the deal,” Ilan said. “It was worth $20 million.” As you learn these negotiation methods, you will soon be able to teach yourself by practicing and debriefing yourself. You will improve month by month, year by year.
But in order to meet your goals, you will also need to help other people get better.
This may sound counterintuitive. But unless the other party does well, they will not likely do a deal. Or they will try to modify it or wriggle out of it later. You can’t get more unless the other side is reasonably satisfied.
And you will need to help others because most people don’t know how to set their goals or meet them. They don’t know how to listen or find the pictures in other people’s heads. They are mostly confrontational and defensive and have the wrong attitude.
You’ll need to help them define their goals, meet their needs, get more. Most hard bargainers are unskilled negotiators; they don’t know any other way. But until the other party shows you they are a lost cause, you should try to help them. That doesn’t mean taking a lot of risk yourself. Take a small, incremental step and see what happens. Ask, “Would you like to make an agreement that is reasonable for both of us?” If they say yes, then define how the parties might go about it.
Bob Woolf, the retired sports-agent superstar, essentially said to others in a negotiation, “I have one thing that’s not negotiable. I demand that we meet your interests.” When the other person expressed surprise, he would say something like, “The reason we need to meet your interests is that if we don’t meet your interests, you won’t meet mine. And I’m a real selfish guy. I want my interests met.” PERSISTENCE
A negotiation is over when you say it is, not before. It doesn’t matter how many times the other person says no, or disagrees with you, or gives you a hard time. Keep asking, stay focused on your goals (without making yourself the issue). Persistence, after all, is a focused effort, over time, to meet your goals.
If the other party bridles at your persistence, say something like, “Well, I’m just trying to meet my goals. Is there some way I could do this better?” Some people won’t be interested in helping you. But more people than you think will help you, let you keep trying, and eventually give you what you need.
In the first class in my course, students tend to try to negotiate for something a couple of times and then give up. By the end of the course, there is no limit to how many times they will ask. Each time, they ask a little bit differently.
Diego Etcheto needed to rebook his ticket on a flight from Philadelphia to Miami. He missed the flight the day before because a storm prevented him from getting to the airport. He wanted Delta to remove the $150 change fee. He called thirteen times. Delta’s answers: no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, yes. It took ninety minutes, but he got the $150 fee waived. “Be polite, but firm,” said Diego, who now works for his family’s food business in Washington State. “When you hear no, ask ‘Why not?’ I was prepared to negotiate all day.” The Dr. Seuss classic Green Eggs and Ham is one of the best books on persistence ever written, in the eyes of Jack Callahan, one of my NYU Executive MBA students. I agree. After more than 100 lovely requests and denials, green eggs and ham are happily eaten. “I read it seven times tonight to my persistent one-year-old,” Jack said.
With persistence comes self-confidence: the belief that you can do it. Students describe self-confidence as their number-one benefit from the course. Tim Essaye, by using the course tools in a company deal, secured a 25 percent bonus. The self-confidence the course gave him made a lifetime of difference.
Colleen Sorrentino got the confidence to tell her husband, Bob, without nagging, that he had promised to go food shopping so she could study. “I didn’t argue and for once I didn’t get emotional,” she said. Colleen said that Bob has done all the food shopping for the more than ten years since that negotiation. “I always tended to feel guilty when I asked for something,” said Colleen, now a managing director at her family’s brokerage firm, Wall Street Access. “I now have a way of going about things that helps me be stronger.” YOU MUST CONSIDER THE DEEPER MOTIVATION
People do some of the most important things in life not for money, not for rational benefits, but for how it makes them feel. The emotional and psychic rewards they get, and the anguish, must be part of the negotiation process.
Sharon Walker’s mother was dying of breast cancer. Although Sharon, a student in my Wharton course, was making plans for a family, she realized that her mother would likely be dead before her first grandchild was born. Sharon wanted her mother to read children’s books on videotape so that her unborn grandchildren would know who their grandmother was.
“The memory of her making the animals talk in children’s stories is an especially dear memory of my childhood,” Sharon said. She wanted the same for her own children.
But Sharon didn’t know how to approach her mother. The sickness caused great emotional distress for the entire family. Indeed, Sharon’s father and sister would oppose Sharon’s plan if her mother got any more upset. So, in class, we did a role reversal—a negotiation simulation—in which Sharon played her mother, to try to figure out what her mother was thinking and feeling. And other students played Sharon, so she could essentially watch herself negotiate. Sharon particularly did not want to appear selfish to her family, or to upset her mother further.
By doing the role reversal, Sharon realized that her mother would most likely want to have a role in the lives of her as-yet-unborn grandchildren, whom she would probably never see. She also realized that her mother, deep down, very much wanted to read children’s books on videotape. But Sharon also understood that her mother was afraid, and already very sad. Her mother lived in California, 3,000 miles away, and couldn’t go through it by herself.
Sharon also realized that if she went out to California and spent some time with her mother, then her mother would be able to go through it. She would remind her mother of the wonderful times they had shared with the children’s stories when Sharon herself was young. She would talk about how the family all felt cheated by the cancer, but that her mother could provide a special legacy. “Whatever happens, don’t you want to be able to read to your grandchildren?” Sharon would say. “Don’t you want them to know the sound of your voice?” Was Sharon trying to manipulate her mother, to take something from her mother? I tell this story to my classes, and some people think so. The right answer, though, is of course not. Was Sharon trying to win the negotiation? And would reading the books cause her mother to lose the negotiation? Not hardly. More broadly, should we even talk about this in terms of win-win or win-lose? In fact, these are irrelevant terms in this and other negotiations. They don’t capture the fundamental dynamic of what really goes on when people interact. A lot has to do with emotional baggage, with things that have nothing to do with the negotiation at hand.
When you give a present to someone you love, who benefits more? When a store clerk gives you a discount because you are the first person all day who was nice to her, who benefits more? It is much more complicated than buzzwords, and requires one to look much more deeply into the people and the situation.
In Sharon’s case, by the time she got back to California from school, her mother was too sick to read the books on videotape, even though Sharon was able to persuade her. Her voice was gone. Sharon’s mom died without the task being completed. Today, Sharon, a Boston high-tech strategy consultant, said she wishes she had learned the negotiation tools earlier in life, so that she would have known how to do the negotiation before her mom was dying.
But she now teaches what she learned to her own children, two boys and a girl, ages five, seven, and nine. Especially about understanding and focusing on the feelings of others. And they are better for it, Sharon says. It is also important to underscore that Sharon did not meet her goals in the negotiation just described, since her mother died before the tapes were done. These processes are not perfect, nor should you expect them to be. But if you keep trying to use them, they will make your life better in many unforeseen ways. So use these tools now. Don’t wait.
CHANGING YOUR LIFE
I often hear from students that the negotiation course has changed their lives. There are many benefits to negotiating effectively: confidence, a detailed approach to solving problems, greater control over one’s life, more money, more peace of mind.
“The benefits of this course are potentially immeasurable,” said Evan Claar, a hedge fund manager in New York. “I see here the keys to unlock everything I want. Not just in my business life, but in my personal life and relationships.” The experience of Carol McDermott is typical. Using course tools, in one semester she: (1) was offered $45,000 more at work, (2) got $90 back from checks the bank bounced in error, (3) got $100 from Continental Airlines after they didn’t have her chosen meal, (4) got $240 a year in discounts from her cable TV company, (5) negotiated an $8 “volume discount” on four flower purchases, (6) convinced a restaurant to serve her group after closing time, (7) persuaded two friends who had not spoken in three months to reopen relations, (8) convinced her boyfriend to attend Thanksgiving at her house, (9) learned not to become flustered during tense negotiations, and (10) did better at avoiding being dragged into arguing over unimportant issues at the expense of her goals.
These are just some things she happened to write down. There were dozens more. These results were just while she was a Wharton student. They increased exponentially after graduation. And her results are typical of what students report.
“The negotiations course divided my life into two parts—before the course and after the course,” said Alexei Lougovtsov, now a trader for Merrill Lynch in London. “It allowed me to have a much happier and easier life, a more successful career, and better relationships.” Alexei mentioned two important negotiations, one professional and one personal. During the financial crisis of 2009, the investor community expected the Royal Bank of Scotland (the world’s biggest bank by assets) and Lloyd’s Bank (Britain’s biggest mortgage lender) to suspend dividends. Alexei, using course tools, thought about the pictures in the heads of each party, including investors, and how items of unequal value would be traded.
He said he realized that the financial institutions would never suspend dividends to ordinary investors, who were the backbone of the economy. And he realized that the government depended on the investors for its political future and therefore would help the dividends get paid. So he recommended that his clients invest in the companies even with the threat of default. He was right. The dividends were paid, and the stock value increased by more than five times. His bank made tens of millions of dollars. “I had arrived at my conclusion not by analyzing legal documents and financial statements, but by thinking about the pictures in the heads of each party,” Alexei said.
His second important negotiation was to convince his girlfriend, Qin, to come to a boxing camp with him for a week. His girlfriend works on Wall Street, and her friends were making fun of her for not standing up to her boyfriend and demanding, say, Barbados and beaches. “I painted a vision,” Alexei said. “I asked how many people get to work out next to world-class boxers. It almost had résumé value.” He took her to a boxing camp started by legendary promoter Don King in Florida. She worked out, sweaty, next to some of the greats. Her horizons were broadened. “She wants to know when we can go back,” Alexei said.
As Cindy Greene, a Boston consultant, said, “I evaluate all interactions in a different way now. My awareness of others is incredibly acute. My life is fundamentally changed.” It will be the same for you.
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