The Negotiator Magazine

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You say, "Let's see, splitting the difference, what would that mean? I'm at $84,000 and you're at $80,000. What you're telling me is you'd come up to $82,000? Is that what I hear you saying?"

"Well, yes," they say. "If you'll come down to $82,000, then we'll settle for that." In doing this you have immediately shifted the negotiating range from $80,000 to $84,000. The negotiating range is now $82,000 - $84,000, and you have yet to concede a dime.

So you say, "$82,000 sounds a lot better than $80,000. Tell you what, let me talk to my partners," (or whatever other higher authority you've set up) "and see how they feel about it. I'll tell them you came up to $82,000, and we'll see if we can't put it together now. I'll get back to you tomorrow."

The next day you get back to them and you say, "Wow, are my partners tough to deal with right now. I felt sure that I could get them to go along with $82,000, but we spent two hours last night going over the figures again, and they insist that we'll lose money if we go a penny below $84,000. But good golly. We're only $2,000 apart on this job now. Surely, we're not going to let it all fall apart when we're only $2,000 apart?"

If you keep that up long enough, eventually they'll offer to split the difference again.

If you are able to get them to split the difference again, this Gambit has made you an extra $1,000 of bottom line profit. However, even if you can't get them to split the difference again and you end up at the same $82,000 that you would have done if you had offered to split the difference, something very significant happened here. What was the significant thing that happened?

Right. They think they won because you got them to propose splitting the difference at $82,000. Then you got your partners to reluctantly agree to a proposal the other side had made. If you had suggested splitting the difference, then you would have been putting a proposal on the table and forcing them to agree to a proposal that you had made.

That may seem like a very subtle thing to you, but it's very significant in terms of who felt they won and who felt they lost. Remember, the essence of Power Negotiating is to always leave the other side thinking that he or she won.

So the rule is never offer to Split the Difference, but always encourage the other person to offer to Split the Difference.

Key points to remember:

1. Don't fall into the trap of thinking that splitting the difference is the fair thing to do.
2. Splitting the difference doesn't mean down the middle because you can do it more than once.
3. Never offer to split the difference yourself; instead encourage the other person to offer to split the difference.
4. By getting them to offer to split the difference, you put them in a position of suggesting the compromise. Then you can reluctantly agree to their proposal, making them feel that they won

Roger Dawson, CSP, CPAE is one of North America’s top negotiating experts and a leading sales and management speaker. He is the author of "Secrets of Power Negotiating" which is one of the biggest selling audiocassette programs ever published. His latest book "Power Negotiating for Salespeople" is now in bookstores and a must read for Realtors®. For information about Roger’s Keynote presentations and training sessions, contact the Frog Pond at 800.704.FROG(3764) or email susie@frogpond.com.

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