6 Quick Negotiation Tenets You Need To Know To Gain The Upper Hand In Any Situation

Zack Minott

5. Humanize Yourself


Photo by Kyle Cleveland on Unsplash

Simply put, negotiation is a huge part of life and every interaction.

Maybe you want to negotiate a salary.
Maybe you’re having a debate with a friend.
Maybe you want a specific project to move in a different direction.
Maybe you’re trying to say no to something.
Or maybe you’re just trying to discuss with your significant other what you guys should eat for dinner tonight.

Learning how to tackle these situations is absolutely essential to your success and your future anywhere. Influence and persuasion are essentially the lifeblood of business, interaction, and getting the things that you want to be done whether you notice or not. Now negotiation and persuasion shouldn’t be thought of as a manipulation tactic, it’s simply just a way to generate fairness and understanding between opposing parties.

In order to gain the upper-hand in any negotiation, argument, or discussion, you’ll need to know the specific strategies to use, the cues to look out for, and the psychological tactics to bend the reality of your counterpart(s).

Renowned FBI negotiator, Chris Voss, lays out the following useful negotiation tenets beautifully in his book, Never Split the Difference. Here are some of the most useful insights that I’ve extracted from his book:

1. Ask “How” Questions

If correctly used, these types of questions are both gentle and graceful ways to say “no” to an offer and instead guide your counterpart to develop a solution of their very own.

This puts the ball in their court and forces them to rethink what they are asking of you and to carefully consider and explain exactly how they imagine the deal would be implemented. It convinces them the final solution was their idea, and when they think it’s their idea, your counterpart will most likely put more effort into implementing that idea and making it work, thus making them more involved in the whole process.

The whole point is to get your counterpart to define success in their own way and to take ownership of what they want while you are getting what you want.

Example questions could be:

  • How am I supposed to do that?
  • How will we know that we’re on track?
  • How are we going to get the resources to do this thing?
  • How did you arrive at that particular price?

2. The 7–38–55 Rule

Also known as Mehrabian’s Rule, this formula states that verbal communication serves to only be a fraction of communicative efforts. In his research, psychology professor Albert Mehrabian quantified that words, tone of voice, and body language respectively account for 7%, 38%, and 55% of personal communication and the role each one has in the way listeners are to perceive the intentions and emotions of the speaker. To emphasize this, psychologist, David Matsumoto, states in his book, Nonverbal Communication: Science and Applications, that non-verbal cues define communication, regulate verbal communication, and serves to wholly be the message itself.

What that says is that in order to be an all-around effective communicator in any situation — negotiations, debates, public speaking, or regular conversation — you are going to have to focus heavily on the right tone matched with appropriate body language. Hone your focus in on the value of these nonverbal cues in communication.

3. The Rule of Three

Get someone to agree with the same thing three times in the same conversation. This is used to uncover the aforementioned falsehoods as some people tend to say “yes” just to get out of saying “no” straight-up. I know I have done this myself and have experienced others initially giving me a “yes” just for it to later be a “no”.

Now you don’t want to just repeat the same thing over and over again just to hear them repeat their answers three times, that’ll make you sound like a broken record. To avoid this you need to follow-up the first “commitment yes” with other methods. You need to repeat what you are asking of them by labeling or summarizing what they are agreeing upon. After that, you can follow up with a calibrated “how” or “what” question that’ll lead them to paraphrase what they are agreeing upon themselves.

Doing this will solidify the commitment conclusively in their mind and will put the responsibility on them to live up to that commitment.

4. The Pinnochio Effect

There exist very obvious indicators that someone may be lying or deceiving you, it just requires careful observation audibly and visibly. It’s important to know these cues so that you can identify and handle their deception patiently and accordingly.

Research conducted by professor Deepak Malhotra of Harvard Business School found that liars tend to use more words, speak in more complex sentences, and use far more first-person pronouns. In it, Malhotra states, “Just like Pinnochio’s nose, the number of words grew along with the lie.” To add on to that, another piece of research from the University of Granada found that when people lie, their nose tends to visibly flare as their nose temperature rises.

That being said, to spot a liar, pay close attention to their nose and the way that they are speaking to you. Though not a completely fail-safe way to identify a liar, when any of these factors are present, be very skeptical of whatever is being said.

5. Humanize Yourself

Use your name to introduce yourself and always say it in a very fun and friendly way. Chris uses an example from one time he went to a store and asked for a discount. First, he was met with a hard ‘No’. But then he kept going and said, “My name is Chris. What’s the Chris discount?”. Needless to say, he ended up getting 10% off his purchases.

The ultimate goal is to lighten the atmosphere of the entire encounter and make it seem very friendly and harmless. You need to let them enjoy the interaction, too. Play to their empathy and allow them to see you as more than a simple passerby in their life. Make yourself present and get your own special price.

Final Thoughts

You need to remember that negotiation is much more than strategically presenting different arguments to get what you want. It’s a hidden art that many people will benefit from to master and learn more about.

Really what it comes down to is having intense self-awareness, asking calibrated questions, and having very close attention to detail, and utilizing those traits to leverage your position in an interaction in order to arrive at a mutual agreement.

Master and understand these tenets and you’ll be one step closer to leading the tango of every interaction you find yourself in.

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