What do you expect when you enter into a negotiation? Do you expect to win, lose, or settle? One thing you can expect is to expect the unexpected. Many of us think we enter a negotiation thinking we must settle, but what if you knew a strategy to increase the likelihood of winning every time?
Think of this in the form of an analogy. If your emotions were the buttons on a remote control, would you give the remote to the person you are negotiating with? If the person does possess the remote control, then you better know the buttons. 1
Let’s take a look at the strategy to win in every negotiation and how you can use it.
The Winning Formula = Emotion + Logic + Repetition
What tactics would Aristotle have used during a negotiation? Well, he actually told us what he would use. They are The Modes of Persuasion: Aristotle referred to his ethical strategy as Ethos + Pathos + Logos (Appeal to Authority + Appeal to Emotion + Appeal to Logic). Similarly, Maria Ploumaki informs us that the elements to the art of negotiation include: Emotion + Logic + Repetition. She says that cold facts and evidence alone will not be as appealing as presenting your ideas within a emotional appeal. 2
Ploumaki sees negotiation as a combination lock, where we have 3 rotating dials (Emotion + Logic + Repetition). By understanding these elements, we will have a better chance of remaining calm when we find ourselves in a defensive position. She compared this to someone pushing us from the side as we are walking toward a destination. When this happens, we are typically forced off our destination. What we should do is immediately stop, stay calm, and reposition ourselves toward the original target.
Let’s look at each of the elements in details:
1. Utilize emotions for a successful negotiation.
Chris Voss is a former negotiator for the FBI and author of the book Never Split the Difference. Voss developed his negotiating skills in tense situations, situations where lives were literally on the line. Where most people liken negotiating to keeping a poker face, Voss uses a different approach and strives to influence people’s emotions. In his view, emotions are not obstacles, they are the means to a successful negotiation. Here are 5 techniques he uses to win every negotiation and get what he wants. 3
- Mirror words selectively. Simply repeat the last one to three words your counterpart says. Additionally, use what Voss calls the “late night FM DJ voice” and slow the conversation down.
- Tactical empathy. Voss recommends we list the worst things that the other party could say about you and say them before they can.
- Get to No. Pushing people to a “yes” makes them defensive, so trigger a “no” instead. Voss recommends using no-oriented questions, such as “Is now a bad time to talk?”
- Get to That’s Right. Voss recommends trying to trigger a “that’s right” response by reaffirming how your counterpart feels. He says the moment you have convinced the other person you understand their feelings is when breakthrough happens.
- The illusion of control. If you want to gain the upper hand in any negotiation then you must create the illusion of control. Voss recommends forcing the other person to use their mental energy to figure you out. He recommends using questions beginning with “How?” or “What?” in order to elicit this type of energy drain from the other person.
2. Logically approach the situation and make your arguments presentable.
Logic alone will not work. It’s not just the facts, perception changes the way we see things. I am reminded of a quote from Albert Einstein
“Not everything that can be counted counts; not everything that counts can be counted.”
Let’s take a look at 4 actionable steps in order to get what we want during a negotiation. 4
- Assess. We must first assess the situation by conducting a cost/benefit analysis. Ask yourself if you have any influence over the final outcome.
- Prepare. Before starting any negotiation, first try to understand what you are attempting to achieve. Then try to understand your counterparts’ true interests.
- Engage. Every dispute or negotiation involves information. Neale encourages us to look at disputes as opportunities to negotiate as we have information they want.
- Package it. Always package your issues. Do not negotiate issue by issue; instead, propose alternative solutions to your counterpart through packages. Neale recommends using If-Then language, such as: “If I give you this, Then I get…”
3. Never allow your buttons to be pushed and repeatedly bounce back.
People are eventually persuaded if something happens often enough. This is the repetition principle and it works. Our brains are awesome pattern-matchers and repetition creates a pattern.5 Let’s take a look at how Ploumaki uses repetition.
- Expect the unexpected. It doesn’t matter how many negotiations you have been a part of, they will all be different. Always enter a negotiation expecting the unexpected to occur, because it will.
- Leave your comfort zone. The moment you feel comfortable is the moment you get in trouble. This is also when you stop developing. You will never win in your comfort zone.
- Never be left without options. Be willing to back away from any negotiation. There might exist constraints limiting the other party; however, these may change over time. What’s not negotiable today may be negotiable tomorrow. 6
- Always act, never react. Prepare for tough question during a negotiation and don’t hide from them. Most importantly, remember what people do is their choice, how you react is your choice.
To consistently make the formula work, separate a good deal from a bad deal.
Stanford Professor Margaret Neale provides a way to win in any negotiation through accessing the situation. She informs us that the goal of negotiation is not to get a deal, but to get a good deal. We must know what separates a good deal from a bad deal. To do this, we need 3 pieces of information. 7