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13 Things You Should Know About Negotiating

If everything is negotiable, here’s how to get the best outcome.


1. Learn to improvise. Pay close attention to what your negotiating partner is expressing and be willing to step outside your comfort zone.

2. If someone offers a good deal, be sure it’s worth the risk to ask for more. As Harvard Business School professor Michael Wheeler writes in 2013’s The Art of Negotiation, “When someone hands you a tasty piece of cake, with rich frosting to boot, think twice about asking for sprinkles on top.”

3. Jot down what you want beforehand. Written plans help you focus on achieving your goals, instead of getting flustered, says Marty Latz, founder of the training and consulting firm Latz Negotiation Institute.

4. Know your triggers. Gail Levitt, a facilitator at York University’s Schulich School of Business in Toronto, says understanding what affects you emotionally makes it easier to avoid taking things personally and concentrate instead on solving the conflict.

5. Be a copycat. A 2007 study of the effects of mimicry on negotiation found that ten out of 15 buyers who subtly copied their partners’ mannerisms during the process achieved a deal. Only two out of 16 buyers who didn’t mirror succeeded.

6. When negotiating for money – selling your car or asking for a raise, for example – ask for a range, not a fixed number. This approach may make it harder for your partner to counter with a lower sum.

7. Small talk goes a long way. Researchers from Stanford, Columbia and Northwestern universities followed people participating in email-based negotiations. One group went straight to business; members of the second began by telling their partners about themselves. Chatty negotiators reached an agreement 59% of the time, while business-centred participants succeeded only 39% of the time.

8. Demonstrate potential rather than listing accomplishments. A 2012 US study measured how participants felt about a hypothetical job candidate. Respondents felt a person who lacked experience but had potential would be more successful than one with experience but fewer prospects for improvement.

9. Beware the gender disparity. According to Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever, authors of Women Don’t Ask, 20% of women admit they don’t negotiate at all – and those who do negotiate ask for 30% less than men on average.

10. Don’t fall prey to “negotiation myopia”, a strategic mistake in which one party fails to see a solution that’s mutually beneficial. Look for a resolution with which both sides can be happy.

11. Update your boss regularly on your accomplishments. If you save them all for one session, you’re in danger of coming across as needy.

12. Have a fallback position. “If you’ve got a great Plan B, you’ll have a more powerful negotiation,” Latz says. “The easier it is to walk, the more likely you are to achieve your goals.”

13. Be soft on the person and hard on the problem. Levitt says, “Ask yourself, ‘What do I want the other party to say or do at the end of the conversation?’ If the answer is, ‘Change into somebody else,’ that’s not an appropriate outcome.”

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