You Can Have It

Bill Abbate

Do you consider yourself a negotiator? Would you be surprised to find out you are and you do it all the time? Negotiating is such a natural part of life we often negotiate without realizing it. Let’s take a closer look at this crucial and indispensable life skill.

Negotiating

Did you know negotiating is one of the oldest skills known to mankind? It is so common we consider it just another part of being alive. In fact, negotiating is such a natural part of life we even negotiate with ourselves!

The simple definition of negotiate in the Oxford Languages dictionary is to “obtain or bring about by discussion” and to “find another way over or through (an obstacle or difficult path).”

Simply stated, negotiating is working on an agreement between two parties. These two parties can be you and another person or two conflicting parts of yourself.

How do we negotiate with ourselves, you ask? When tempted, we often negotiate with ourselves, either standing firm or giving in. Have you ever wanted to stay in bed but decided you had better get up and go to work since it was a weekday? How about when you debated whether to have that dessert after a meal? What about when you couldn’t decide between two things and finally made a choice? Each of these was decided by negotiating with yourself.

Practically everything in life is negotiable, including who you work for, where you live, what you do, what you wear, and what you eat. You could say life is one big negotiation from when you wake up to when you go to bed.

Are you an effective negotiator in life? All you need to do to determine this is to look at the results you receive. Are they satisfactory or lacking? Therein lies your answer.

Basic types of negotiators

While there are many negotiating styles, three basic types of negotiators stand out. There are those who:

  • Negotiate to win
  • Hate to negotiate
  • Negotiate for a win-win

Which are you?

Negotiating to win

For many years I was the type of negotiator who wanted to win and win badly. It was usually a win-lose game, and I won plenty. Although I now consider this a somewhat immature and selfish negotiation style, it taught me valuable lessons and techniques.

You have heard the term, “he drives a hard bargain.” That used to be me, especially when negotiating multi-million dollar deals. I wanted to win so badly that I was often willing to walk away if I didn’t get the terms I wanted.

I learned one of my first and most important lessons in negotiating is the willingness to walk. The one willing to walk holds the most power. In other words, the one willing to walk away has the strongest position and can usually negotiate hard to get the best deal. But not always.

“You have to persuade yourself that you absolutely don’t care what happens. If you don’t care, you’ve won. I absolutely promise you, in every serious negotiation, the man or woman who doesn’t care is going to win.” Felix Dennis. (1927–2014)

If the other person is similar to you and willing to walk, you can arrive at a stalemate where everyone loses. This tactic is only advisable when you have other sources for the same product. If the other person has something unique, you may want to lighten up a bit.

You can use this all-or-nothing tactic when you feel undue pressure to buy. It can release some of the stress. If you are genuinely interested in the product, devise the terms you want and stick to them. Be resolutely willing to walk away unless they meet them. They will stop pressuring you, or you will get a great deal if you want it. In this instance, you are producing somewhat of a win-win situation.

A telltale about this all-or-nothing style is they almost always have to get the last word in. You know the type!

One final tip you can learn from hard negotiators is not to utter another word when you make an offer. As a rule, the one who speaks first loses.

“It’s a well-known proposition that you know who’s going to win a negotiation; it’s he who pauses the longest.” Robert Court (1978-present)

Those who hate negotiating

If you are the type of person who does not enjoy negotiating and makes every effort to avoid it, you are not alone. From what I have seen, the number of people like you may be as high as 80%, which is why so many emails, telephone calls, and other scams are trying to take your money.

While not everyone will entertain such scams, too many do, so they continue to proliferate. The best thing to do if solicited in such a manner is to mark the email as spam or delete it. If they have reached you on the phone, hang up. Don’t worry whether it is rude or not. Their unsolicited call to you deserves nothing less. They intruded on your time, after all!

If your phone allows number blocking, use this feature as soon as you hang up. If more people would do this, we might run some of them out of the business of taking advantage of people.

If you are negotiation-avoidant, you will not get the best deal unless you are willing to learn to negotiate.

“Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate.” John F. Kennedy (1917–1963)

Suppose you are up against a hard negotiator. In that case, one of the simplest ways to negotiate with them is to predetermine if you want what they are selling. Don’t waste a second of your time or theirs if you don’t want it.

If you want what they are selling, set your walkaway price and terms firmly in your mind. You are now in a position of strength and may even get a better offer. Do as little talking as possible because the more you talk, the greater the chance of them taking advantage of you.

If they are unwilling to meet your demands, walk away. So long as you are reasonably realistic, they will usually meet your needs. The key is to stand firm with what you will accept. Do not make the mistake of waffling. If you do, you likely lose.

“The most difficult thing in any negotiation, … is making sure that you strip it of the emotion and deal with the facts.” Howard Baker (1925–2014)

Win-win negotiating

The idea type of negotiation is what is often called a win-win negotiation. In a win-win negotiation, you have the best of all worlds. The negotiation does not feel contrived, and you each get what you want. No one loses. You must, of course, be interested in buying or selling the product and be willing to take the time needed to negotiate the price and terms.

“Place a higher priority on discovering what a win looks like for the other person.” Harvey Robbins (1932–2013)

You will find volumes of information and techniques available on win-win with a quick search. Learning more about this type of negotiating will be worth your while.

When and where to negotiate

When is it appropriate to negotiate, and when is it not? Traveling the world much of my life, I have found negotiation to be more of a way of life in some countries than others. In America and most places around the world, you never know unless you ask.

“All government, indeed every human benefit and enjoyment, every virtue, and every prudent act, is founded on compromise and barter.” Edmund Burke (1729–1797)

Many times, things you don’t think are negotiable are. And remember, price is only one aspect of negotiating. If the price is firm, find out if there are any discounts, rebates, or other offers. Check their policy on what happens if the item goes on sale later. Will they give the difference back to you within a certain timeframe?

On big-ticket items, you can also often negotiate the terms of the sale, including which lender to use, interest, payment schedule, and so on.

There are many ways to negotiate where you may not think possible. For example, I often ask about senior discounts. Many places offer them, but you never know unless you ask. Some places even consider ages as young as 50 as a senior! These work almost everywhere, including hotels, restaurants, rental cars, and many stores and restaurants.

If you are a veteran, always ask if there is a veteran discount. I recently found I get 10% off anything I purchase at Lowes by registering as a veteran in their system. All you need is your DD-214 to prove military service, which every veteran has. In the case of Lowe’s, I was using their credit card for 5% off all purchases when I overheard someone mentioning their military discount. All I had to do was ask, register, and now I get 10% regardless, even when paying cash. The veteran discount even works on my phone, internet, and cable plans, with some offering up to a 25% discount!

You can get better terms or pricing in numerous other ways, but you will never know unless you ask!

A final tip on negotiating I learned in the corporate world. Try to negotiate with the highest-level person possible. As a rule, the higher you go up the ladder, the more generous the terms and pricing may be. This may sound counterintuitive, but believe me, it works 90+% of the time. Why is this so? Because the higher you go, the more authority a person has, and they often like to show it by giving you a better deal!

A final suggestion is to gain more discipline by negotiating harder with yourself. After all, you win either way, but make sure you take the best deal!

For example, if the doctor has told you that you may die much younger if you don’t lose some weight, start exercising and eating better. Use this reality to negotiate hard with yourself and those who care about you. Why not ask those you love to help hold you accountable? Accountability is a powerful way to strengthen negotiations, personal or otherwise.

When you cave to your cravings and your desires are not aligned with what the doctor has told you, stop and negotiate. Negotiate with yourself and whatever it is, exercising, food, medications, and anything else. Negotiate as though your life depends on it! Oh, in this case, it does!

Final thoughts

Often neglected and taken for granted, negotiating skills are among the most important you can develop. Working on them will add more to your life. More money, more time, more satisfaction, more peace, more fulfillment, and much, much more beyond these things. Why not take some time to work on your negotiation skills? Once you have them, they will serve you throughout your life.

You will never regret becoming a better negotiator, but you may have plenty of regrets if you do not sharpen this skill. We can all learn much more about this essential skill, and finding many great books and resources about negotiating isn’t hard.

Why not spend a little time developing this crucial skill? All it takes is a little negotiating with yourself to get started!

I leave you with this final thought:

“So much of life is a negotiation — so even if you’re not in business, you have opportunities to practice all around you.” Kevin O’Leary (1954-present)

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Semi-Retired-Leadership/Executive Coach -Personal & Career Growth Expert -Editor and Leadership Writer at Illumination -Author

Richmond, VA
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