Man and woman shaking hands above table having negotiated a signed contract.

Everything I Know About Negotiating I Learned as a Matter of Survival

Every day you negotiate with kids, spouse, bosses, co-workers, employees, creditors, vendors, banks, friends, clerks, and salespeople. You negotiate with telemarketers and repair people, teachers, and neighbors. You negotiate with your words, tone, body language, and even your silence. Sometimes it’s a complex issue, but most of the time, it’s just a series of one-minute negotiations.

 

Man and woman shaking hands above table having negotiated a signed contract.

Driven to save myself and my family from financial ruin, I jumped into the deep end of the industrial real estate industry. I knew nothing about negotiating. All I knew was that I had to close deals. That meant bringing interested parties together, getting them to agree, and seeing that everyone walked away a winner.

I no longer sell real estate but still rely heavily on my learned negotiating skills. Sometimes it’s a complex issue, but most of the time, it’s just a series of one-minute negotiations. Everything I know about negotiating I learned as a matter of survival.

You are a negotiator

You negotiate with kids, a spouse, bosses, co-workers, employees, creditors, vendors, banks, friends, clerks, and salespeople. You negotiate with telemarketers and repair people, teachers, and neighbors. You negotiate with your words, tone, body language, and even your silence.

Getting what you want

Negotiating is how you get what you want, whether it’s a significant purchase or your teenage son putting the seat down.

Whether your negotiations involve an allowance program for your kids, settling a dispute with a contractor, managing a full refund on a bad purchase, or convincing a creditor to reduce your interest rate, learning to negotiate from strength will reduce tension, relieve stress, and build confidence.

Principles and Skills

Here are three principles and six essential skills that will help you develop your ability as an effective negotiator.

Principles

1. Something for everybody

The goal in a negotiation is not that everyone comes out an equal winner, but everyone should walk away satisfied. Negotiating a deal that gives something of value to each party is the mark of a wise negotiator.

2. The one with the most knowledge wins

Never forget that knowledge is power. The more you know, the better your chances of getting what you want. The actual skill comes in keeping what you know to yourself, revealing only a bit at a time and when doing so is to your advantage. In other words, stop the blather. Don’t feel you must fill every moment of silence with more of your superior knowledge and wisdom. Mark your words. Count to 10 in your mind if you must. When there’s is a dead spot, no one is saying anything—the first one to speak will lose. That alone will give you, who did not speak first, the advantage.

3. The least motivated party is in control

If the other party finds out how desperate you are to make the deal, you’ve just lost control. Anytime you can send non-verbal cues that you are not desperate, you gain an advantage.

A negotiator’s most potent tool is the simple act of calmly and slowly closing (never slamming) a notebook, briefcase, purse, calendar, or newspaper (whatever is handy). Without saying a word, you allow the other party to fear you may not continue.

In a virtual negotiation—on the phone, for example—you can send non-verbal cues such as a noticeable sigh or a well-placed “Hmmmm …” followed by a long silence.

Six Basic Negotiating Skills

1. Prepare

Do the research. Carefully formulate precisely what you want out of the deal.

2. Set limits

Know exactly how far you are willing to go and stick with it. This allows you to focus on your alternatives and keeps you from appearing desperate.

3. Create emotional distance

Stick to the facts. Put your emotions away. How? Visualize a box where you stuff your fear, anger, desperation, doubt, and tears. Apply the lid and tie it up with a big bright bow. Set it on a “shelf” so high you need a ladder to reach. There. Done.

4. Listen effectively

You do know why you have two ears and one mouth, right? Bite your tongue if you must, just make sure you do not interrupt and maintain eye contact. Listen! Then carefully, cautiously react.

5. Communicate clearly

Choose your words carefully, and then be quiet.

6. Know when to close

Perfect skills 1-5, and you will know instinctively how and when to close.

A Life Skill

Negotiating has to be one of my all-time favorite activities. But I do have one tiny concern. I just gave away all my secrets!

 


 

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1 reply
  1. Luisa says:

    Thank you for this, Mary. You’ve provided very helpful tips. The second one is probably the one I most need to work on. As a career teacher, I find myself constantly wanting to share knowledge. I don’t even think about it, but just do it naturally. I’ll be aware of that going forward.

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