To negotiate well, you have to understand your counterpart's side of the argument. Know what they want, know what they'll agree to and, if possible, know it better than they do.
This isn't easy, but Peter B. Stark and Jane Flaherty describe the steps you can take to achieve and convey such an understanding in their recently revised book, "The Only Negotiating Guide You'll Ever Need: 101 Ways to Win Every Time in Any Situation."
Here's what they recommend:
"A negotiation is not an event, it is a process," Stark and Flaherty write. "The side with the most and best information usually receives the better outcome."
You want to develop a thorough understanding of what your counterpart is looking for and thinking.
Stark and Flaherty use the example of someone purchasing a car. They write that the buyer "has the opportunity to get competitive bids and information about the strengths and weaknesses of the seller's product or service."
Unless you work in the automobile business, you probably won't know more about the car you want than the dealer. But if you put the effort in, you can at least be more prepared than fellow buyers and more prepared than the dealer expects, they write.
If you don't, the dealer will win, you will lose, and you'll end up paying more than you should.
"Stop talking and listen," write Stark and Flaherty. "The best negotiators are almost always the best listeners." And the best listeners listen interactively — clarifying and verifying, reflecting deeply on new information, forming thoughtful responses.
"Get to know your counterpart," they say. "Ask probing questions."
"An empathetic individual understands and relates to the other person's feelings," they add.
Empathetic listening allows you to know the implicit desires beneath your counterpart's words. You can infer what they want without having them actually say it.
What is perhaps one of the more surprising points that Stark and Flaherty make is this: "The ideal outcome for almost all negotiations is win-win."
The best negotiators find a solution that allows them to get what they want and satisfy their counterparts, too. "The needs and goals of both parties are met, so they both walk away with positive feeling — a willingness to negotiate with each other again."
"Creating a win-lose situation is simply not good business," they say. "Almost all win-lose relationships end up lose-lose over time."
And the best way to avoid this is to know exactly what your counterpart wants, and know it well.
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