The Definitive Guide to Business

The psychological strategy that will help you win any negotiation

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Ever wonder how some people are able to negotiate their way into or out of anything?

Social psychologist Robert Cialdini set out to answer that question in his new book, "Pre-Suasion," which examines research from dozens of studies and personal anecdotes.

What separates great negotiators from the rest of us, he found, is the ability to set the stage before making their case.

"The best persuaders become the best through pre-suasion — the process of arranging for recipients to be receptive to a message before they encounter it," Cialdini writes.

Highly persuasive people use language that opens a person up to an idea before they even mention it — that's what he calls "pre-suasion."

"We convince others by using language that manages their mental associations," Cialdini writes. "Their thoughts, perceptions and emotional reactions merely proceed from those associations."

Whether you're negotiating prices with vendors or trying to win over a client, he suggests using language that conditions the other party to view your argument in the light you want.

For example, if you wanted to swap out your team's daily meetings for weekly meetings, using adjectives and verbs that emphasize the importance of free time and efficiency (like "lengthy meetings" or "freer schedules") would warm the group up to that change.

⁠⁠⁠Emphasizing "we" is also important in negotiating, Cialdini says. The more an audience feels a speaker is similar to them, the more receptive they are to that speaker's argument. Positioning yourself as acting in unity, he says, is a key to get people to act in the way you want.

"In large measure, who we are with respect to any choice is where we are, attention wise, in the moment before that choice," Cialdini says.