The Negotiator Magazine

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I act dumb by asking for the definitions of words. If the other side says to me, "Roger, there are some ambiguities in this contract," I respond with, "Ambiguities . . .ambiguities . . . hmmm, you know I've heard that word before, but I'm not quite sure what it means. Would you mind explaining it to me?" Or I might say, "Do you mind going over those figures one more time? I know you've done it a couple of times already, but for some reason, I'm not getting it. Do you mind?" This makes them think: What a klutz I've got on my hands this time. In this way, I lay to rest the competitive spirit that could have made a compromise very difficult for me to accomplish. Now the other side stops fighting me and starts trying to help me.

Be careful that you're not acting dumb in your area of expertise. If you're a heart surgeon, don't say, "I'm not sure if you need a triple by-pass or if a double by-pass will do." If you're an architect, don't say, "I don't know if this building will stand up or not."

Win-win negotiating depends on the willingness of each side to be truly empathetic to the other side's position. That's not going to happen if both sides continue to compete with each other. Power Negotiators know that acting dumb diffuses that competitive spirit and opens the door to win-win solutions.

Think in Real Money Terms but Talk Funny Money
There are all kinds of ways of describing the price of something. If you went to the Boeing Aircraft Company and asked them what it costs to fly a 747 coast to coast, they wouldn't tell you "Fifty-two thousand dollars." They would tell you eleven cents per passenger mile.

Sales-people call that breaking it down to the ridiculous. Haven't we all had a real estate salesperson say to us at one time or another, "Do you realize you're talking 35 a day here? You're not going to let 35 a day stand between you and your dream home are you?" It probably didn't occur to you that 35 a day over the 30-year life of a real estate mortgage is more than $7,000. Power Negotiators think in real money terms.

When that supplier tells you about a 5 increase on an item, it may not seem important enough to spend much time on. Until you start thinking of how many of those items you buy during a year. Then you find that there's enough money sitting on the table to make it well worth your while to do some Power Negotiating.

I once dated a woman who had very expensive taste. One day she took me to a linen store in Newport Beach because she wanted us to buy a new set of sheets. They were beautiful sheets, but when I found out that they were $1,400, I was astonished and told the sales clerk that it was the kind of opulence that caused the peasants to storm the palace gates.

She calmly looked at me and said, "Sir, I don't think you understand. A fine set of sheets like this will last you at least 5 years, so you're really talking about only $280 a year." Then she whipped out a pocket calculator and frantically started punching in numbers. "That's only $5.38 a week. That's not much for what is probably the finest set of sheets in the world."

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