Negotiation touches every part of our lives. Relationships in business and in our personal lives are negotiated. And the skills to do it effectively can often mean the difference between getting what you want or losing out. You don’t get what you deserve, you get what you negotiate!
In the first section of the book, How to be a Great Negotiator, written by property economist, investor and developer Neville Berkowitz, the characteristic traits of a great negotiator are explored in short, bite-sized nuggets of advice.
Over the next 132 days, we will bring you the traits needed to succeed at the art of negotiating.
(Courtesy of PersonalEmpowerment.co)
Information is currency used for various purposes. In social situations, we share information to the degree that we like or trust the other party in order to reveal or share ourselves, to achieve mutual understanding, or to establish closer, more meaningful relations. In legal or practical situations, we share information in the degree that we are compelled or required to by circumstances; to give testimony; to establish our innocence, good character, or reliable credit; or to achieve a particular objective.
Information is currency and leverage in a negotiation. A negotiation is a strategic process of exchanging and eliciting information in order to reach an understanding, an agreement, or to make a deal. In a negotiation we share information relevant to the mutual goals of two parties. Ideally, the information shared creates a legitimate bond of confidence and trust between both parties that leads to a mutually satisfactory agreement. But it also involves a kind of poker game of “you show me yours and I’ll show you mine,” where both parties show their cards selectively, hoping to gain an advantage without giving away too much.
The aim in any negotiation is to find a balance between giving away too little or too much information. Too much withholding of information creates mistrust, undermines goodwill, and can cause a negotiation to break down. Giving too much information too freely or eagerly can make you look inexperienced, incompetent, or weak. A great negotiator knows what information is relevant and necessary, and what is not relevant or not appropriate to share. You want to appear open and gracious in giving information, while only offering as much as is needed by the other party to move the negotiation forward. How you share information, your manner and tone, can be as important as what information you share.
In an ideal negotiation you should have as much information as possible about the issue, service, or product – its qualities, strengths, and weaknesses – that you are offering the other party or that they are offering you. Also, try to get as much information as possible about the other party and/or their company; about your and the other party’s strengths and weaknesses in the current negotiation; and about variables that may affect the negotiation. These variables may include the current market value of the product or service under negotiation; possible effects of the current economy on the market value; how the product or service under negotiation compares to similar alternative products or services; the potential effect of your or the other party’s current financial status on the outcome of the negotiation; and any other factors you think are relevant to that outcome.
Gathering information about the product or service, the other party, or their company takes research. This can include talking to people who know the other party or their company; talking to the other party prior to and during the negotiation; talking to experts in the field; going to the library; and, of course, using the internet, which has made research relatively simple and information readily available, literally at your fingertips, on an unprecedented scale.
But the above resources can’t always tell you everything you need to know. Some information – for example, inside knowledge or the ulterior motives of the other party – can only be accessed, if at all, by subtle, strategic, or intuitive information-gathering and by being fully present, observant, and intelligently engaged in the negotiation. These information-gathering skills are only developed with time and experience over the course of many negotiations.
Arriving at the negotiation table fully informed gives you an automatic advantage and leverage in the negotiation. Current, accurate, comprehensive information gives you a big-picture perspective and a detailed context that enables you to operate more intelligently, effectively, and intuitively. You are more aware of subtleties and are more attuned to essentials. You are better able to ask relevant questions, and to assess and respond to verbal and nonverbal communications. And you are better able to understand the “what” and “why” of the other party’s needs and goals, and are better able to help them achieve them.
Information is latent power; it only becomes actual power when applied. And the timing can make the difference. The right information used at the right moment increases its power. For example, knowing the Heimlich maneuver when the person sitting next to you at a restaurant is choking to death gives you life-saving power whether you’re a doctor or an accountant. Knowing yesterday’s hot stock tip today is useless information; but knowing it early yesterday morning could have made you a fortune. The right information applied at the right moment creates power or leverage in a negotiation, and in life. Great negotiators are present and attentive enough to discern the needs of the moment, and, if the timing is right, to “strike while the iron is hot” with the right information before the moment passes.