In a research study of university students conducted a decade ago, more than a third of the participants answered that they rarely or never negotiate with other people. The truth is, however, quite the opposite. “Everything in life is negotiated, under all conditions, at all times,” write Peter B. Stark and Jane Flaherty. “From asking your significant other to take out the garbage to merging onto the freeway in rush-hour traffic, from determining what time to schedule an appointment with a client to deciding which television program to watch with your family – every aspect of your life is spent in some form of negotiation.”
That’s where Stark and Flaherty’s joint effort, “The Only Negotiating Guide You’ll Ever Need” swoops in. Conveniently divided into two parts – “The Skillful Negotiator” and “101 Tactics for Successful Negotiation” – the book combines theory and practice and, in addition to going over the basics of negotiation, it also provides a broad selection of real-world examples and tactics from all spheres of life. So, get ready to get acquainted with the basics of negotiation as well as the keys to creating win-win outcomes!
Negotiation’s four possible outcomes
All negotiations you have had so far and will have to the end of your life will end in one of four possible outcomes: lose-lose, win-lose, win-win, or no outcome. Let’s see each in turn:
- Lose-lose. Needless to say, lose-lose is the least desirable outcome of a negotiation. Unfortunately, it is also the one which happens most often. Stark and Flaherty point to the South California grocery workers strike of June 2016 against the supermarket chains Ralphs and Albertsons. If you remember well, it ended with the workers accepting a 35% cut to their pensions, and Ralphs and Albertsons losing almost $1.5 billion in sales and about 30% of the market. “Almost always in a labor strike, everyone loses,” Stark and Flaherty conclude.
- Win-lose or lose-win. Win-lose or lose-win is the outcome everybody secretly hopes for – of course, provided they ended up on the winning side. Naturally, people capable of achieving that in a negotiation are rarely interested in the other three outcomes. Even so, in the long run, win-lose doesn’t work as well as you might think. That’s because when you contribute to the creation of a win-lose situation, the loser will most likely refuse to negotiate with you ever again in the future. “Almost all win-lose relationships end up lose-lose over time,” write Stark and Flaherty.
- Win-win. This is the ideal outcome for almost all negotiations: “The needs and goals of both parties are met, so they both walk away with a positive feeling – and a willingness to negotiate with each other again.” As an example of this kind of outcome, Stark and Flaherty point to Barack Obama successfully normalizing the relations between the United States and Cuba after half a century. “After years and years of failed negotiations,” they write, “both countries were granted release of their prisoners. Americans and Cuban Americans are free to travel to Cuba. Moreover, the Cubans will significantly benefit from the travel and trade revenue that is brought to their country from the United States.”
- No outcome. The final possible outcome of a negotiation is the no-outcome. Here neither party wins or loses and everything remains just the way it had been at the beginning. A great example of negotiating “no-outcome” is you trying to sell your car. If your buyer doesn’t agree with your estimation, and you don’t agree with their offer, then they would probably walk out, and you’ll try to find another buyer in an attempt to turn the no-outcome into a win-win or win-lose outcome.
Three keys to creating win-win outcome
Gerard I. Nierenberg, the Father of Negotiation Training, once wrote, “In a successful negotiation, everybody wins.” However, as we already noted, that’s only rarely the case. And yet, as Stark and Flaherty point out, there are quite a few negotiators who have built a strong reputation for consistently achieving win-win outcomes in their debates. How do they do it? Well, if you want to join their rank, then it’s best to keep the following three guidelines in mind:
- Avoid narrowing the negotiation down to one issue. Whether you’re negotiating with your spouse or with a client, focusing on just one issue is one of the worst things you can do during a negotiation, as it sets the scene for a win-lose outcome. Regardless of the subject of a negotiation, there are probably more issues to be considered than the one currently being discussed. As a rule of thumb, the more issues are on the table, the more likely it is for both sides to slowly nudge the negotiation into a “win-win” direction. For example, if you’re selling something and you’re arguing with your buyer solely over the price of the product, there’s a good chance one side will end up being the loser of the bargain. However, if you bring up additional deal points to negotiate – say, delivery date, upgrades, warranty, training, or support – you might get yourself a win-win deal.
- Realize that your counterpart does not have the same needs and wants you do. Everything other than this attitude inevitably leads to a win-lose situation. Don’t ever start a negotiation with the idea that your gain is your counterpart’s loss and vice versa. First of all, the market is never that rational or simple, and, secondly, it is not a good feeling to end up on the losing side.
- Do not assume you know your counterpart’s needs. Not only is it important to assume that your counterpart has different expectations from yours, it is even more vital to suppose that you have no idea what their expectations are at all. Negotiators often fail to take this into consideration, simply because sometimes they feel like they know the answer beforehand. For example, a seller might assume that their buyer’s expectations are to buy the product or service in question at the lowest price possible, but what if their actual need is, say, the product’s quality or its delivery date? Not being aware of things such as this is tantamount to missing an opportunity for a “win-win” outcome.
The three critical elements of negotiation
The three most critical elements in negotiation are time (or, the period over which the negotiation takes place), information (the more you have of it, the better), and power (which can come in many forms). Let’s say a few words more about each of these three elements:
- Time. Most negotiations, just like almost everything in life, aren’t events but processes. Also – once again, just like most things in life – they abide by the famous Pareto principle, with over 80% of your results in a negotiation generally coming in the last 20% of the debate. If you want to make time your friend rather than an enemy in a negotiation, follow these six guidelines: 1) Have patience; 2) Be persistent; 3) When possible, move quickly; 4) Realize that deadlines can be moved, changed, or eliminated; 5) Take into consideration your counterpart’s timeline and, finally 6) Make time work for you, rather than against you.
- Information. About half a millennium ago, Francis Bacon famously remarked that knowledge equals power, and there is nothing truer than this as far as negotiations are concerned. The more you know about the subject being negotiated, the better the result will be for you. The less you know, the more susceptible you are to being on the losing side of a “win-lose” outcome. As we already mentioned, a negotiation is a process, and one that starts long before the actual face-to-face encounter. Be prepared. Find out everything you need from anyone who has the facts and stats, be they a friend of yours or a relative, a colleague or an acquaintance of your counterpart. Browse the Internet, check the archives, and never forget – your counterpart, if smart, will probably do the same.
- Power. If you have power, but don’t use it, the power adds no value to the negotiation; however, if you do use it, then power can severely influence the outcome of any negotiation. According to Stark and Flaherty, there are ten types of power that need to be taken into consideration because, as they say, all of them can be both used and abused by either negotiation party. These ten types are the following: 1) position; 2) knowledge of expertise; 3) character or ethics; 4) rewards; 5) punishment; 6) gender; 7) powerlessness; 8) charisma or personal power; 9) lack of interest or desire, and finally, 10) craziness. When it comes to power, whenever you enter a negotiation, remember the following five facts: 1) Seldom does one side have all the power; 2) Power may be both real and apparent; 3) Power exists only to the point at which it is accepted; 4) Power relationships can change, and 5) Whenever possible, power should be tested.
Three types of negotiators
According to Stark and Flaherty, no matter what the subject of a negotiation might be, there will always be one of the following three types of negotiators on either side of the conversation: sharks, carps, and dolphins. “Each type,” they say, “has a different pattern and style of negotiating and makes different responses to their counterpart’s moves.” So, let’s dedicate a few words to each:
- Sharks. As far as sharks are concerned, all negotiations have but one outcome: win-lose; needless to add, they are prepared to do everything to not end up on the losing side. Sharks believe in scarcity and play the zero-sum game, convinced that unless they win, the other side does. Feeling that victories are not only an important aspect of life, but a vital tool for survival in the wolf-eat-wolf world of Western capitalism, sharks have their eyes on the “kill” and nothing else. Their only nature is to either “take over” or “trade off.”
- Carps. Just like sharks, carps too live in a world of scarcity, but their final objective is not to win but to minimize their losses. They dread confrontation and enter all negotiations with the idea that they will have to work hard to just maintain what they already have. When confronted with any type of challenge, most of them refuse to fight and respond with only two of the proverbial “three F’s”: they either flee or freeze. Carp’s normal response in a negotiation is to either “give in” or “get out.”
- Dolphins. Dolphins live in a world of potential abundance. As far as they are concerned, negotiations can have numerous different outcomes, and not only two. That allows them the necessary flexibility to adapt to all circumstances. By default, dolphins tend to avoid unnecessary conflict by cooperating as long as the other player does likewise. However, they are quick to respond to an unethical move by their counterpart by retaliating properly. While quick to retaliate, they are also quick to forgive. These traits make them the ideal negotiators.
A few tactics for successful negotiation
Although the terms “strategy” and “tactic” are often used interchangeably in colloquial speech, there is actually a big difference between the two. Namely, whereas a strategy is “a plan for achieving something,” a tactic can be best described as “a device for accomplishing an end.” So, several well-chosen tactics that have the same objective in mind can combine to form a long-term strategy. A strategy, in other words, is something that consists of multiple tactics. Here are a few common negotiation tactics to help you build a negotiation strategy for the next time you’ll need one:
- Is that your best offer? A great way to practice your negotiation skills is to simply get in the habit of asking salespeople, “Is that your best offer?” “You would be amazed how many times they will lower their price or throw in an extra benefit in response to this simple question,” write Stark and Flaherty.
- Wow! You’ve got to be kidding! The most successful negotiators are great at acting surprised. Usually they verbalize their surprise using words such as “Wow” or phrases such as “You’ve got to be kidding!” It may seem silly, but, in the real world, it really has an effect. It makes the counterpart ask himself “What does he know (that I don’t)?” – even if he knows it’s merely a trick. In fact, failing to act surprised when price or conditions are mentioned could result in something you don’t want: your counterpart taking advantage of you.
- Giving up a future draft choice. In sports, giving up a future draft choice means trading a player you might get in the future for a player you can get right now. That’s a valid negotiation tactic for many everyday situations as well. Say, you want to watch an important NFL game on Friday. Now say that a few hours before the game, you remember that you’ve promised your significant other that you will take them out to a nice restaurant. If the game is so important to you that you’re willing to break a promise to watch it, then why don’t you try trading your future arrangements for the present one. For example, you can offer to take out your partner three times in the next ten days if they let you watch the football game in question. We can’t promise the tactic will work, but, hey, it’s worth a shot! Especially if Mahomes is playing!
One can’t be skeptical enough of books which promise to be “The Only Book” of their kind, but a case can be made for the validity of the title “The Only Negotiating Guide You’ll Ever Need” for Peter B. Stark and Jane Flaherty’s primer.
Of course, you might need a few more negotiating guides as time passes, but we feel that this is the one you’ll always return to, because it works simultaneously as a theoretical textbook (the first half) and an encyclopedia of tactics and examples (the second part).
Don’t let the print length fool you: there is much more here about negotiation than you could expect to be packed in 300 pages. Trust us.
Even if you don’t like using negotiation tactics in your everyday encounters, it’s good to learn a few of them to be able to protect yourself, because there’s a good chance at least a few people might use the tactics against you.