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How to Win Every Negotiation Even When Your Opponent Is Winston Churchill

How to Win Every Negotiation Even When Your Opponent Is Winston Churchill

Negotiation is an everyday human interaction — a process that takes place when two or more people with different stances try to work together for a mutually beneficial result. This includes anything from an employee/employer discussing a pay rise, to a customer trying to get better deals, to a mother/son discussing leaving home. Negotiation happens all the time, but most rarely realize it. This is why negotiation skills are something that everyone should take up.

In a negotiation, compromise is key.  Each party will likely have to sacrifice something to get what they want, and they may not get all that they want.  Negotiation without compromise will never work. Here I will help you get the best out of a negotiation without sacrificing too much benefit to please others.

Know Your Counterpart and Know Yourself

Identify your position.

This will make you strong yet flexible, and less susceptible to rash decision-making or influence from your counterpart, even when negotiations become intense.

  • Specify your objectives. Envision what the ideal outcome will look like to you.  Be specific. Articulate what the conclusion to your negotiation is so you know how to work towards it.  Now do a reality-check.
  • Ask yourself – what might I need to sacrifice to get what I want?  Categorize these items into what’s negotiable, and what isn’t. This helps you identify two important parameters: (i) your ideal outcome and (ii) your minimum acceptable outcome – the point at which you are no longer willing to negotiate.
  • Prepare a backup action in the event that the negotiation does fail. Otherwise, you’ll be a weak negotiator, making regretful sacrifices under pressure in order to come to an agreement at any cost.

Identify their position.

Get as much information as possible about what your counterpart really wants. If you can understand what they truly value, you can offer them an appealing solution that also benefits you.

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Both parties should disclose all of the points that are up for negotiation. When you both know what’s at stake, it becomes clearer where you can both benefit (a win-win scenario) and where some give-and-take will be necessary.

Say a disgruntled employee who used to be conscientious suddenly complains about her salary. At face value, your main options are to increase her pay for doing the same work or refuse and risk losing her.  However, when you take the time to talk with her, you discover that it’s not really about the salary. She has high ambitions but was overlooked for a recent promotion opportunity. Then you can propose to support her to help her rise in the company.

Build Trust, Not Enemy

A key goal in any negotiation is to build trust. Earning trust helps you both during the negotiation and in the longer term.

Even with difficult negotiations, always be the party open to finding a mutually beneficial solution. Remain professional and follow the above steps, from preparation, to manoeuvring, to the negotiation’s conclusion.

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Firstly, being professional gives you the edge in the process, as it encourages transparency and cooperation from your counterpart.

Secondly, even if you can’t come to an agreement in a particular negotiation, your counterpart will leave the encounter knowing that you are firm, flexible, clear, and honest. Worthy counterparts will return to you for future negotiations, and non-worthy opponents will realise that they need not try their luck with you.

Give Them Freedom

Prepare multiple give-and-take options. To give your counterpart the ability to choose is a powerful bargaining advantage to you.

Imagine you’re a parent who wants your toddler to eat more vegetables. Instead of repeatedly asking them to eat, and getting a ‘no’ as a response, you could prepare two different types of vegetables and ask them if they want to eat the broccoli or the peas.

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Doing this reframes the options from ‘yes’ vs. ‘no’ into ‘this’ vs. ‘that’. Your toddler feels empowered because they’ve made an independent choice. And of course, since your goal was for them to eat more vegetables, ‘this’ vs. ‘that’ is really a disguised ‘yes’ vs. ‘yes’.

Be Silent About Your Sacrifices

Don’t reveal the value of your sacrifices. I’m not suggesting that you be dishonest. Keep matters straightforward because value is in the eye of the beholder.

A small sacrifice for you may be of great benefit to your counterpart. If you inadvertently reveal to them your most painful sacrifice, they’ll perceive that to be the thing of high value.

Offer low value sacrifices early in the negotiation as another way of showing goodwill. It helps to lower their defences and sets a cooperative tone. Similarly, package together several low value sacrifices to satisfy your counterpart.

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Now imagine you’re going to a fishing region for your next family holiday. It’s further away than where you usually go for holidays, and isn’t quite as fun for children. After discussing it with the family, they’ve agreed to the holiday that you want. And you’ve agreed that you’ll (i) clean and tidy the car before you leave, (ii) do all the driving, (iii) take your 10-year old to the nearby zoo on two of the days away. This seems like a lot of work, but you enjoy driving, you need to tidy the car anyway to fit in your fishing gear, and you like spending time with your 10-year old.

Make Yours a Limited Edition

In other words, emphasize its value by informing your counterpart that your offer has a time limit. The goal is to get them to envision a possible future where your deal is no longer available to them. This should compel them to apply value to your offer in the present, and take action.

I have a friend, Michelle, who makes dresses. She agrees to make six dresses for a client (a boutique clothing store) at a discounted rate because it will solve a pressing cash-flow problem. However, she doesn’t apply a deadline to her offer. As a result, the client has achieved what he wanted in principle and doesn’t bother executing the deal for several weeks. Since then, Michelle has made sure that any deals she makes are strictly on the condition that her clients accept the offer within the week.

Delay, Delay, Delay

Don’t be too quick to respond, otherwise you may seem desperate. This may make your counterpart suspicious. Or a ruthless opponent may take advantage of your apparent desperation to close. Furthermore, the party who can afford to wait can increase their bargaining power.

Say you are really keen on a certain PA role and you know they’re keen to take you on, but their salary offer is lower than the minimum amount you’d accept. Instead of making a quick decision, emails them to say you’re not convinced, and that you’ll look at your options and let them know. Wait a few days, the HR will find you to ask if you’ve made your decision yet. If you say no, they may even raise their offer.

All’s Well That Ends Well

Keep the above tactics in mind and you will master every negotiation. Remember, negotiation requires compromise. The outcome of a negotiation should always be beneficial to both parties.

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Brian Lee

Chief of Product Management at Lifehack

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Last Updated on July 17, 2019

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

What happens in our heads when we set goals?

Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

The Neurology of Ownership

Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

The Upshot for Goal-Setters

So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

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