Deal Making: How to Play the Game

Negotiating can be a tricky skill, one that most men love, and most women hate. Dr. Phil turns to Herb Cohen, expert negotiator and author of You Can Negotiate Anything and Negotiate This! By Caring But Not T-h-a-t Much, for his tips on mastering the game of negotiation. 

Keys to Communication During Negotiating

  • Try to elicit from the other party their underlying concerns, interests, preferences and needs.
  • Begin by asking questions, even if you think you know the answers. Not only listen to what they are saying, but convey that you are engaged in active listening. When they speak, look at them, and smile and nod when appropriate. Don't mask your reactions with a poker face. Try to display empathy and understanding, since people want to know that you truly care about their situation.
  • Write down what they are saying. Remember, people want to be in a relationship with those who respect their point of view.
  • While taking notes, pause occasionally to read back to them what you have written. Never once has the other side said, "Gee you got that perfectly." Usually their reaction is, "You left something out," or "I believe you mischaracterized that." Then willingly change what you have, conforming to their wishes so you can establish a consensus of their concerns.
  • Allow them to tell their story in their own way, which means that they sometimes digress and meander. Don't interrupt them because ultimately their willingness to say "yes" will not be based only on facts, hard evidence and rational thinking, but also on gut instincts, comfort level, emotions, feelings, predilections, learning ability, risk tolerance, pride, past experiences and perceived consequences.
  • Try to control your words and reactions. Even if you disagree strongly with what's been said, qualify your objections by saying, "I think I understand your position, but from my narrow perspective, limited as it may be, I see it this way ..."
  • Never spend time arguing or debating. Approach every negotiation as a cross-cultural encounter where you start out sensitive to a differing perspective, gathering intelligence with the attitude of knowing that you don't know because individuals not only reveal but also conceal information.

Playing the Negotiating Game

  • How you interact (your demeanor or approach) registers more than what you are discussing (terms or content).
  • People are more influenced by the manner of the messenger than the message itself.
  • Effective negotiators have a style that those whom they are trying to influence, relate to and admire.
  • Successful persuaders within the United States, whether politicians, managers, or salespeople, are distinguished by certain style characteristics, including:
    - The ability to express ideas in simple terms, framing issues so that choices are clear cut.
    - An optimism and hopefulness about the future.
    - Coming across as ordinary folk.
    - Having a congenial, humble, and unaffected way.
    - The use of self-deprecating humor to humanize and show them they don't take themselves too seriously.
  • Start all dealings in a cooperative fashion, conveying empathy, along with a low-key pose of calculated incompetence.
  • The negotiating world often contains some razzle-dazzle and hocus-pocus, so lighten up and enjoy the game.

Closing the Deal

  • Before the strategic interaction occurs, establish a specific and measurable goal that gives direction to your activities.
  • Being flexible on style enables you to grudgingly yield on some items to gain substance concessions in return.
  • Open all discussions with commonality and a demeanor that communicates consideration and warmth.
  • Save the most knotty or zero-sum issue for last.
  • Since human beings are complex and multifaceted, probe below the surface so you can broaden the discussion. This enables you to make trade-offs and exchanges to facilitate agreement.
  • Concessions are not appreciated unless effort is expended to obtain them.
  • If you say or do something inappropriate, immediately offer an unqualified and unconditional apology.
  • Keep in mind, there are four major criteria that will finally induce your counterpart to say yes:
    1) Sufficient investment.
    2) Having a basis for comparison.
    3) A concession rate that signals the approach of your bottom line.
    4) The feeling that they were involved in producing this outcome.

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