Negotiation Blog

Negotiating Salary: Tactics, Blunders or Best Negotiating Practices - Part I

By Marianne Eby

The recession has resulted in layoffs, and the fortunate among us were able to turn that disappointment into opportunity, possibly even to pursue a new career or job path.  A Watershed workshop participant did just that. Here’s a chance to learn from the mistakes of someone else negotiating his salary, who we'll call Bill. To protect everyone’s privacy, we’ve changed the names.

Bill had taken our Best Negotiating Practices workshop when he was in international sales at his previous company. He had since been laid off in a recession-induced downsizing. He decided to switch career tracks, and follow his passion in international labor relations. He easily landed a temporary position at a large corporation, and after almost a year, his manager indicated that she wanted to bring him on as a full-time employee. Bill was thrilled, and stopped his job search.
 
A few weeks later an HR recruiter at his company, who we'll call Jen, scheduled Bill for an interview. This surprised Bill, as he felt that the company already knew his work quality and production. Bill researched salary ranges and prepared for the interview.
 
Bill knocked on Jen’s door and she beckoned him in, but was distracted reading a report on her computer and making comments under her breath. She then picked up another document on her desk and flipped through a few pages, laughing quietly to herself before turning to Bill. 
 
“How much do you want?” Jen asked. These were the first words out of her mouth. Bill had done his research on salaries (he knew the upper limit of $125K and the lower limit of $70K) for similar positions at the company and in the field, and had asked other colleagues about Jen’s negotiation style. He was prepared for Jen’s direct approach, and asked for $127,000 (just above top of the salary range for someone like him with a masters degree in international labor relations and 3 years of general international business experience.)
 
Jen responded, “Absolutely not.” She then told Bill that the more appropriate salary is $78,000.
 
What should Bill have done next?
Some would start negotiating up from $78K and focus on the number, and some would try to convince Jen that her market value of the position was wrong. The Best Negotiating Practice would be to refrain from engaging in bargaining from persuasion. Neither approach is recommended. The Best Negotiating Practice would be to show surprise in a congenial way (wow, that sort of salary is a surprise to me), and then ask lots of questions about the position in general. The idea would be to clarify what the company was envisioning in terms of expertise, experience, travel, visibility, etc., and only after exhausting that line of discussion, start asking about how the $78K was derived.
 

 

Negotiating Tip

A deal is successful when it's implemented successfully. That happens when all options were explored so everyone feels satisfied.


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Negotiating Salary: Tactics, Blunders or Best Negotiating Practices - Part III

By Thomas Wood

Let’s magnify the various moves Bill and Jen made in their salary negotiation that my colleague explored in previous blogs Part I and Part II. They reached a deal, but was it to thier mutual satisfaction? We’ll categorize the moves as Tactics, Blunders and Best Negotiating Practices (BNPs). Do you agree?

  1. Negotiating Tactics – moves made for short term advantage that risk losing credibility or trust;
  2. Negotiating Blunders – moves or approaches that fail to achieve their objective or any other positive outcome; and
  3. Best Negotiating Practices (BNP) – skills, strategies and behaviors that are designed to create and capture value in negotiations.
Tactic, Blunder or BNP?
 
 
Move
 
 
Response & Impact
Blunder
Bill relied on this part-time position and didn’t have a Plan B – other interviews or networking
Bill’s failure to continue to build his BATNAs (his Plan Bs) puts him at a disadvantage
BNP
Bill prepares an opening offer and support
He is ready when Jen asks
Tactic
Jen ignores Bill at first to make him feel unimportant
It works mildly, but Bill’s preparation keeps him confident
Blunder
Jill opens the conversation without any rapport building or excitement about Bill joining the organization
Jen misses the opportunity to build an alliance with Bill, which will make it more difficult for her to learn what matters to him. She also risks him deciding against the job.
BNP
Jen asks Bill what he wants
Hearing from Bill informs Jen up front if this conversation is worth her time. But it did come with the risk that Bill would anchor Jen by opening first.
BNP
Bill opens with his prepared opening offer of $127K.
Great opening offer – high, but justifiable, and therefore credible
Blunder
Jen says “Absolutely not” to Bill’s opening, which is the same as saying “No.”
Saying the word “No” or a similar negative response shuts down conversation
BNP
Jen opens with her opening offer of $78
Jen’s opening seems appropriate – she starts low but within a justifiable range
BNP
Bill asks “Why?”
Always a great probe, when said with sincere curiosity and not as an attack. Jen is so far from Bill’s preferred salary that he can only benefit from more information.
Blunder
Bill doesn’t wait for Jen’s answer. He starts defending his stature.
Jen is unfazed because Bill isn’t engaging her – he’s presenting to her. Bill is waiting too long to start asking questions – the best way to engage his counterpart.
BNP
Finally Bill realizes that he is not convincing Jen, and starts asking lots of engaging questions.
You can’t probe too much!
BNP
Bill next asks for Jen’s advice as to what he needs to succeed in this job.
Great open-ended question. Engaging the other side is critical. Jen’s inclination now is to help Bill, rather than to win against him.
BNP
Bill asks Jen to reconsider the salary given the information they have discussed about his background and fit for the position.
Bill needs Jen to move a lot, so his open request is a good strategy. He’s giving her a way to save face if she is convinced that his salary can go higher.
BNP
Jen makes a huge move from $73 to $103K.
Jen’s first move is big, but she saves face by having reconsidered the expertise required for the job and Bill’s fit for the position.
Blunder
Bill seems inclined to accept the offer.
Bill could have asked more questions about the new salary range, and further built the relationship. Jen probably had more to give. But Bill lacked confidence due to his non-existent BATNA (plan B).
Tactic
Bill asks about getting an alternative work schedule given the lower salary than what he had anticipated.
At least Bill asked for something to justify why he would move off his opening of $127K – the alternative work schedule. It was a “nibble,” but because he knew Jen could give it, there was little risk to the relationship in employing this tactic.

 

Negotiating Tip

Contrary to popular belief, 9 out of 10 times you will benefit greatly by making the first offer.


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Politicians' Negotiations -- What Can We Learn?

By Thomas Wood

Whatever the nature of our negotiations (commercial, legal, regulatory, internal, etc) we can learn from the ups and downs of some of the most prominent public negotiations. With the Euro in serious trouble and economies worldwide shaken, government negotiations over economic strategies are around the clock and very public. The US negotiations over federal budgets, taxes and spending are a prime example.

With several US significant tax and spending provisions set to kick in (or lapse) in December and January, official Washington will be furiously bargaining at year’s end. And the stakes couldn’t be higher: the fate of the US national economy, the credit rating of the U.S. government, and the confidence of the American people in their elected representatives’ ability to tackle big problems.

In last summer’s negotiations, President Obama and the Congress' House Speaker John Boehner came close to striking a “grand bargain” on long-term debt reduction. It combined restrictions on the growth of entitlement programs (which are trades dear to the Democrat party) with increased taxes on the wealthy (which is anathema to the Republican party). But at the last minute the deal fell apart. Examining elements of this failed negotiation through the prism of Best Negotiating Practices may well provide insight into what could happen at the end of this year, as well as provide guidance for our daily bargaining.

The 2011 budget talks were prompted by a deadline—namely, the need to raise the US government’s debt ceiling so it could borrow more money to pay its bills. Congressional Republicans used this deadline to try to force concessions: they refused to increase the government’s borrowing authority without obtaining agreement by the Administration to substantial budget cuts. While absolute deadlines can be helpful in focusing energy and avoiding unnecessary delay, skilled negotiators can also use arbitrary deadlines as tactic to gain advantage.

The Republicans took a position opposed to any tax increases.  The President’s position was that he would not accept the level of cuts in entitlement programs sought by the Republicans without an increase in taxes on the wealthy. For both sides, the interest was to achieve debt reduction while maintaining the support of each party’s political base. Negotiators sought a solution—as good negotiators should—that served the two parties’ interests, even if it seemed to violate their positions (raising taxes by closing loopholes rather than raising rates, for example).

When the deal collapsed, Democrats charged that Boehner had lacked sufficient authority to bargain, and had been overruled by his Republican colleagues in the House. Negotiators should always have sufficient authority to strike a deal, but not absolute authority: carrying limited authority allows them to postpone or deflect unwelcome proposals. In the end, both sides decided that no deal was better than what they viewed as a bad one. They could both revert to the same, ready-made Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement (BATNA): elections, in which each side might achieve at the polling place what it couldn’t at the bargaining table.

While political negotiators in each country and all governments have special advantages and restrictions, everyone involved in negotiation can benefit from studying their successes and failures. It will be interesting to see if the US federal budget negotiators busy later this year are among those who have learned anything.

Negotiating Tip

Nodding and tilting your head at regular intervals encourages people to expand on their comments while signaling that you are interested and involved.


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Use the Power of "Just Asking" in your Negotiations: Robert Pattinson Does!

By Thomas Wood

Sometimes just asking can save you hundreds of dollars, or hours of negotiating. And unlike Robert Pattinson, you don't have to be acting as a quidditch team captain, a vampire, or a young billionaire to have the confidence to pull it off.

The idea made the news last week when Robert Pattinson, multimillionaire actor known for his roles in the Harry Potter series, the Twilight series and the just released Cosmopolis film, explained the way he negotiates on Jimmy Kimmel Live:

Pattinson confirmed that he is an habitual negotiator who "buys everything on Craigslist." His most recent bargain was for a 2001 Silverado listed for around $2500. He recounted bonding with the seller over gas prices, then simply asking for $300 off the price. The seller agreed, he said, and didn't really understand the concept of negotiating. "The guy's comeback was "what about $50 bucks more?"

Pattinson's "just ask" strategy was news because we don't imagine a multimillionaire celebrity haggling over $300. But it is not news for procurement professionals in big business across industries, who rely on asking for a greater discount, a changed term, extended service, faster delivery, etc. They "just keep asking," regardless of whether there is anything to justify the ask, not because they are obnoxious or uninformed, but because this tactic works. If a sharp company sales rep appropriately pushes back, an experienced procurement professional might say with light laughter, "Well, I had to ask!"

Remember that if you are "just asking" and can justify your Ask, it's strategic. But if you are "just asking" for no other reason than that it might work, you are using a tactic, which unlike strategies, are non-collaborative moves to gain short term advantage. Like any negotiating tactic, if you overuse then or use them in the wrong situations, expect to erode trust and your own credibility. 

"Just asking" in the right situations, however, does in fact work most of the time. Recently, when billed $2700 for the treatment of an infected blister, of which my insurance paid only $1800, I called the private clinic's billing department. I started with a joke ("you know I didn't have heart surgery, right?") and then simply asked: "I was hoping you could help me out." They cut my bill in half.

An easy, efficient way to practice "just asking" is when you are shopping. A client told me that they had gotten $300 off the mattress they wanted simply by walking around the desired mattress for awhile, chin in hand, saying nothing.

Thoughtful silence is a kind of probe that can work miracles, especially in flea markets and antique stores. The key is to show genuine interest. Don't point out all the problems with the merchandise (i.e., it looks damaged, it's too big, etc.) hoping the seller will see it as less valuable. Sellers, like most negotiators, would prefer a positive interaction with someone likeable who respects their business and merchandise. Complimenting the piece, and the seller's taste or selection, helps a seller invest in you as a customer and try to find a way to get you to buy that piece.

Tips when asking -- or probing -- for a quick and simple bargain:

  • As in more involved negotiations, build a little rapport with the seller first. Make small talk -- about the shop, the merchandise, the weather.
  • Treat the seller with the utmost respect -- don't badmouth the store, the the business or the merchandise. Often in antique stores the seller chose everything in the place.
  • Show genuine interest in what you're considering. If you can, know something about it. If not, ask "dumb" questions about it to show your interest and let the seller talk about it.
  • Don't try to get to the seller's "bottom" price in smaller negotiations. If you can get $300 off in a few minutes or with one question, you're getting great value for the time you've invested.
  • Keep it light. Ask "is there any flexibility on that?" Or "Can you help me out on this?" Or just look at the object quietly, with appreciation.
  • And remember, "just asking" is applicable to a lot more than price, in selling, buying and everyday negotiations that help you get what you want. Just ask!

Negotiating Tip

A weak partner is a dangerous partner. At minimum, find ways for all parties at the negotiating table to save face. 


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Prevent An Ambush: Five Tips

By Marianne Eby

In a recent seminar, a client described a negotiation crisis he'd had: at a meeting he believed was going to be an information exchange with his wholesaler, he was ambushed: without warning, the other side brought a team of eight from his company, made a lowball offer, and then announced that they no longer needed our client's business.  What to do?

Our client was less stunned than he might have been -- the same person had pulled the same stunt two years before. Why was our client still doing business with him? A surprise attack is for competitive, not collaborative negotiations, since it tends to sacrifice the relationship to the outcome. And indeed, our client had avoided contact with the bully after the last deal, believing he would be gone by the time the contract needed renegotiation. Ending the relationship was difficult, because the bully's company had become our client's sole source of distribution.

When you have to negotiate with a bully, here are five tips for preventing and defending against a surprise attack:

  • Keep Working on Relationships. Like nasty neighbors, hostage-takers, dictators, oligopolies, and sole-source suppliers, a wholesaler who is has a large portion of your market is difficult because you can't avoid them -- you have to find a way to have a relationship with them. Prior to bargaining, work harder than you otherwise might to find affiliations, make gestures of friendliness, and get to know other people on the team and in the company. Even if you find the "bully" difficult to deal with, you will get to know him or her better, which will help you anticipate tactics and resist the angry reaction that a surprise attack can trigger.
  • Build a Strong BATNA. Your BATNA is very important in this kind of negotiation, because it is more difficult with a sole distributor. Finding alternatives to a deal with your main distributor requires a lot of probing, conversation, and relationship-development with other potential wholesalers and retailers. You may be able to negotiate with second-tier wholesalers, or plan an "end-run" around the bully and offer a deal directly to retailers. Do this legwork before an information exchange.
  • Develop a joint agenda. Get the other party to agree ahead of time on what will be discussed in a meeting. If an ultimatum or something comes up that you didn’t discuss when you negotiated the agenda, remind the other side that their new item is not on the agenda both parties agreed to and will have to wait for the next session.
  • Focus on Interests. One way to help distract from the hostility or negativity created by a tactic like a surprise attack is to focus on your own interests, and on the legitimate interests of the other side. What is the real reason for the hardball tactic? What do you really need out of the deal? Consider your BATNAs and the possible BATNAs for the other side.
  • Manage emotions. If you find yourself faced with a surprise attack despite your attempts to prevent it, it will be critical to keep your cool. Anger blurs thinking.  Our client wisely did not respond to his counterpart's ambush and mostly kept his cool -- then went to gather intelligence about the other side. He found that the bully had treated a number of other companies to a similar tactic, but had not met with most of them. Thus our client discovered he had more bargaining power than he realized.

Our client's plan after our discussion was to circle back to other retailers and wholesalers and explore his options and strengthen his BATNA before returning to the bully. Stay tuned for an update!

Negotiating Tip

Try not to negotiate if you are in a negative emotional mood. Research shows you will make inappropriate or unnecessary concessions.


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Spending Time on Relationships is Never Wasted: Negotiation Lessons from Enron in India

By Thomas Wood

Everywhere I consult and teach on negotiations, people love hearing stories of the negotiations that didn't go well, and especially stories of the now infamous former US behemoth, Enron. Everyone remembers Enron’s meteoric rise to power in the 1990s – as well as its shocking fall into bankruptcy in 2001. Fewer people remember that the Houston-based energy giant had tasted defeat at least once before, when negotiations over a planned $20 billion power plant broke down with the Government of India. Why did this high-profile, lucrative deal fall through? One major reason harkens back to the most fundamental of all negotiation principles - spending time on relationships is never wasted.

In the late 1990s, Enron seemed to be on top of the world. The Houston-based energy company, named “America’s Most Innovative Company” six years running by Fortune magazine, claimed over $100 billion in revenues during 2000 alone. By December 2001, however, widespread accounting fraud and corruption had brought Enron crashing down in a stunning turn of events.

Although it seemed as though Enron could do no wrong, the company had in fact experienced a serious setback in the mid-1990s, when negotiations over the massive 2,015 megawatt Dabhol Power Plant – the first part of a planned $20 billion effort – broke down with the Maharashtra State Electricity Board and the Government of India.

Why did this high-profile, lucrative deal fall through?  Despite their business acumen, Enron committed two key mistakes during the negotiation process that sowed the seeds of the deal’s demise.

First, by pushing to sign a contract as quickly as possible, Enron negotiators failed to build a longer-term relationship with their Indian counterparts. As reported in Business Week, although Rebecca Mark, head of Enron International, justified their strategy by stating “time is money for us,” for instance, the speed of the arrangement looked suspicious to many key Indian powerbrokers. Influential local leaders immediately began criticizing Enron’s negotiation strategy as an affront to Indian sovereignty and argued that corruption must have been used to speed up the process.

Enron’s failure to cultivate a long-term business relationship with any local partners – (it also rejected the advice of many experts and refused to take on a local Indian partner as a minority equity holder) – meant that Enron possessed no trusted local partners to help navigate the pressures that inevitably accompany such endeavors. This made it virtually impossible for either side to capture valuable trades – and increased the likelihood that India would execute its BATNA.

Second, rather than thinking creatively in search of mutual gain, both sides resorted to positional-based, competitive negotiation strategies that manifested themselves in bitter criticisms and veiled threats. As reported by the BBC News, after local Indian officials characterized the power plant agreement as a “betrayal” and suspended payments, for example, then Enron CEO Kenneth Lay implied that his allies in the US government might cut off aid to the Indian government. Threatening India's relationship with the US crossed the line and sealed the end of Enron's power play.

In high stakes and complex negotiations, all the great financial analysis will not change the need for trust and strong relationships. We can all learn from Enron's missteps.

Negotiating Tip

Prepare, prepare, prepare and stay on plan. Don't let the other party's tactics throw you off plan. Tactics are designed to do one thing - to get you off plan. Only new facts should change your plan.


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Six Halloween Tips to Unmask the Hardball Negotiator

By Marianne Eby

Do you ever feel like your negotiating counterparts are wearing the same Halloween masks that show up trick-or-treating at your door? Are the mad rush of negotiations in your business to spend year-end budgets and internally as you plan for the next fiscal year really any different than what goes on among the children’s back-room deals over their stashes of candy? Here are 6 tricks (or tips) to unmask the hardball negotiator.

Tomorrow night Halloween in the US evokes images of costumed children asking to trade a trick for a treat – the trick is they are masked as real and fantasy characters and in exchange they want lots of candy – a trade at the heart of every negotiation. With a strong commercial foothold in the US and Canada, this strange bargaining called Halloween has spread in recent decades to parts of Europe and Asia, and is also popular in Latin America.

Halloween celebrations permeate the US culture. More than $7 billion was spent on Halloween last year and about 74% of adults celebrate this holiday, defined by costumes, masks, and out of bounds behavior.  Businesses and professionals often consider how to participate in the late October frenzy, since employees and customers experience and relish Halloween as a community celebration. In offices and schools and neighborhoods, in big and small businesses, in penthouses and party rooms, in C-suites and hotel suites, Halloween fun and zany antics are planned, encouraged, enjoyed.

For most businesses, there's also a scene behind Halloween. Often, late October marks the beginning of the end of the annual business cycle. Wrap-up issues are on the table, and plans are being made for the upcoming year. And if your house is like mine on Halloween night, the real bargaining goes on after the candy is collected, when the kids spread out their winnings and begin to trade. That's when we see the real masked characters using the best and worst of negotiating behaviors to get what they want!

Even if the Halloween fete and the year closing create a tension of opposing demands, deals will get closed. For example, while we are spending $1.2 billion annually on Halloween costumes, $85.5 billion is also being spent on computers. Corporate negotiators are working computer deals, equipment leases, supply contracts, phone usage and supplier agreements that keep businesses running, while $21.5 billion in candy passes from hand to mouth.  Company representatives in all corners of the world commute their own shares of the $85 billion computer spending, or source and set prices for personnel who can create and support the internet architecture that will permit a share of the $255.5 billion in annual on-line sales.  (Data source)

Negotiating is never frivolous and is not always sweet. The scary part is when our negotiating counterparts come to the bargaining table wearing their Halloween masks.  We find ourselves faced with people dressed up as superheroes, who want to play “hardball.”

Hardball negotiators use tactics to distract, manipulate, or trick us into moving off our position.  They believe that they can win more by playing hardball than by collaborating to create value. The hardball negotiator wears masks – meaning they don’t share their interests – why they want what they want, and don’t care about our interests – why we want what we want.

We want to make a deal, and our hardball counterparts seem only to be willing to make their deal.  We are looking for flexibility, and our counterparts seem determined, inflexible, even intimidating.  Whether we are are sales or procurement or management, trying to meet quotas, move excess inventory, or gain savings from volume and vendor choice, hardball counterparts are entrenched in their position and tactics.

In the spirit of this Halloween season, consider these responses to the hardball negotiator:

  1. Consider the tactic what it is – just a trick for a treat. Compliment your counterpart for their tough negotiating style as you would the costumed child at your door. Then suggest you are likely to give better concessions if you can get a commitment to collaborate. Once people make a commitment to be cooperative, most feel bound by it. Remember that their inflexibility is just a costume that can be removed.
  2. Model collaborative behavior by asking questions to discover your counterpart’s interests. Then offer to address any interests you learn about if they are willing to shift to a collaborative approach.
  3. Label the hardball tactic (not the person). For example, when they tell you their boss won't go for it, respond, “I see you've brought your bad cop in the room today. I could bring mine in too, or we could just get back to discussing possible solutions.” Then Probe, with sincere curiosity. Same if they tell you that discussing options is no use because they don't have any authority to commit to a different solution. You should say something like -- "We both have limited authority and for good reason; now let's talk possibilities so you can go back and get the authority you need."
  4. Negotiate the ground rules. Propose that the parties step back and mutually determine how negotiations are to be conducted, building in discussions of challenges and possibilities, proposals, brainstorming, counterproposals, etc.
  5. Co-opt them. Become friendly. It is always more difficult to attack/deceive a friend than an opponent. Ask yourself: Was rapport built in Exchange stage or did you skip it? Can you step back and build rapport now or interweave it throughout the remainder of bargaining?
  6. Respond in kind. For example, when the other side opens with an outrageous offer (high or low), respond with an equally outrageous counteroffer, and a smile. This works well if they are simply testing YOUR resolve, or if they are bluffing. If they see you are also skilled in hardball tactics, they may try these strategies to get you to be more collaborative. But be warned, people have a tendency to reciprocate negative behaviors more than positive behaviors.

As we begin closing our current year and preparing for the upcoming year, our negotiating teams can benefit from reviewing the collaborations and hardball negotiations we’ve encountered, just as we review our numbers.  Remember to assess strategies to disarm the masked negotiator, since collaborative negotiations create bigger wins for all of us.

Negotiating Tip

When they say no, your only response is "why". No is an opportunity to explore options. No is an opportunity to create value.


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What Negotiators Can Learn From Kids

By Thomas Wood

In our negotiation workshops, some of our favorite examples of effective negotiating strategies come from kids. They always get a laugh of recognition, because even our most experienced negotiators know that they can be outmaneuvered by a 4-year old.

There are countless parenting blogs and books devoted to negotiating with your kids, or avoiding negotiation with your kids -- all designed to help you handle the little wizards without losing your shirt. One blog, "Like A Dad," reviews a few common kid tactics as a way of helping parents recognize and prepare for them. But as negotiators, we need to ask -- what tactics can we learn from them?

Kids with caring parents do have a number of advantages over adult negotiators -- they won't do damage to their reputation if they are unprofessional, whiny, or outrageous in their demands. But here are five effective negotiation strategies kids use that we should too -- followed by a few we should leave to the less mature./learning-center-item/listen-loudly.html

Top Five Negotiating Strategies From Kids:

  • Think big. When my son was two, he heard the crinkling of a candy wrapper in my pocket. He said "candy?" I said "oh, would you like one?" He said "two." Kids ask for what they want, not for what they think you'll agree to. In fact, they have a good idea that you will not agree. They have no compunction about starting with their Most Desirable Outcome (MDO). If they want three cookies, they'll ask for five, then do the "incremental number drop." Aiming high is the key to beginning negotiations that will produce a satisfying outcome.
  • Don't take no for an answer. When kids hear "no," they get motivated, not discouraged. Kids often understand "no," or "time's up" as a signal to begin negotiating. You too should recognize "no" as a sign that you and your bargaining partner don't understand each other, and you need to ask more questions.
  • Be genuinely curious. Kids' love to ask the question "why?" not to drive you crazy, but because they really want to know. They keep asking questions, open-ended questions, with the same enthusiasm as their first question. Kids have infinite energy for questioning and testing the limits parents establish. I once told my son he couldn't do something dangerous that his sister had just done. After a little back and forth I offered the standard stumper, "if your sister jumped off a cliff, would you?" His answer: "how high is the cliff?" And then "could you slide down it?"
  • Be creative. My son's question about the cliff was so creative I had to hand it to him -- perhaps I even made a concession. Creativity always creates more -- more possibilities, more concession ideas, more value, more goodwill. If the other side sees that you thinking creatively about how to satisfy their real interests, you are more likely to get a concession and develop a good relationship. So nurture your childlike creativity, because research says that up to age 5, we are using about 85% of our creative power, but that by the age of 12, our creative output has shrunk to about 2% of our potential.
  • Play one parent off another, or, know who to ask. Kids know how to manage ALL the stakeholders. They know which parent is more likely to say yes to certain things, and will approach that parent first, then parlay any positive response into something that might persuade the second parent. Or, if both parents say no, kids will try a grandparent (the ultimate stakeholders) or an aunt or uncle if they can -- ideally one who will make an emotional, rather than a rational, decision. "Okay, you can take your bath after the movie instead." In business deals, you too need to try to find the person most likely to benefit from your deal, and start there. All of this requires knowledge of the other side and of their real interests. What we may call manipulative is just knowing how to use the difference between positions and interests. Example: "I know my TV time is up but this show is about nature, Dad, isn't it good for me to learn this?"

Childish Tactics to Avoid:

  • Pretending not to hear or understand. This is the ignoring tactic my kids use every day. It's an avoidance tactic, not a negotiating one, and it will not help you get what you want. If you have that impulse, recognize what it probably is: a need for clarification, for more time or for control of the timing in the negotiation process, and proceed from there.
  • Throwing tantrums or crying. Though there are arguments for occasionally using tantrums as a tactic, it is part of a competitive, rather than a collaborative negotiation strategy. In general such behavior alienates and ultimately loses business. Kids don't have to worry (too much) about what they'll lose from a tantrum, because the relationship with their caregivers is (hopefully) guaranteed.
  • Pretending to be sick -- just one of many ways kids have of playing on parents' sympathies and concerns, and not likely to be useful to a negotiator who wants to make more than one deal. It may work within your office to gain your boss' sympathy and concern, but not otherwise.

When I first became a parent, a final lesson from my mother: "Thomas, as a parent your goal is talk to your kids so they will listen. And listen to your kids so they will talk.

Negotiating Tip

Decide early as you prepare for an important negotiation, does the situation call for you to compete, collaborate, compromise, avoid or accommodate. All strategies have a time & place.


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