The Negotiator Magazine

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When individuals prepare they spend most of their time discussing history (yesterday) the present (today) and the future (tomorrow): I refer to these three different time frames as a "cancelled check" (yesterday), "cash" (today), and "a promissory note" (tomorrow). Whether we like it or not, all three have significant influence on what takes place during a negotiation. But despite how well a person might be prepared, they will never take into consideration the myriad of possibilities that may occur during the course of the negotiation. Therefore, I truly believe the best negotiator is the one who not only does their homework well, but also can think on "their feet" very well and respond to situations and questions well. There are two tactics that have worked very well for me in such situations. The first one I call "the agent of limited authority," that's when you state you're unable to take a position or agree to something without concurrence from someone else in the organization. And if everyone knows you have the authority and you can't use the tactic, then you use what I call "the agent of limited knowledge:" This is when you defer because you need more information from your marketing, engineering or manufacturing staff before you are able to concur.

First concession weakness

And the final myth is one that has been promulgated for so many years that it has unfortunately become a firm belief to many negotiators. It has been stated in this manner ... "the negotiator that makes the first concession displays weakness!" Whereas, in reality the one making the first concession shows confidence not only in their ability to make it, but also in setting the stage for receiving a compromise in return. And if none is forthcoming, establishing "goodwill" in the negotiation by virtue of having made the first positive gesture in the process. Because negotiating is a "give-get" process, one should never be afraid of being the first to make such an overture to another party. Ultimately, the objective is to "get" as much as one "gives" and hopefully more if one has conducted the process well.

My hope in writing this article is that negotiators think about the foregoing myths and in doing so, evaluate if perhaps they have overlooked something in the past that might help them in the future.

Henry H. Calero is President of C-M Associates located in Redwood City, California. Besides co-authoring How to Read a Person Like a Book, he also authored or co-authored Winning the Negotiation; Negotiate the Deal You Want; The Human Side of Negotiating. He has two new books that will be published in 2005: The Power of Nonverbal Communication: What You Do is More Important Than What You Say! and The Soup of Success Has Many Ingredients. He can be reached at HankCalero@aol.com

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March 2005