The Negotiator Magazine

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Another reason for asking for more than you expect to get will be obvious to you if you're a positive thinker: You might just get it. You don't know how the universe is aligned that day. Perhaps your patron saint is leaning over a cloud looking down at you and thinking, "Wow, look at that nice person. She's been working so hard for so long now, let's just give her a break." So you might just get what you ask for and the only way you'll find out is to ask for it.

In addition, asking for more than you expect to get increases the perceived value of what you are offering. If you're applying for a job and asking for more money than you expect to get, you implant in the personnel director's mind the thought that you are worth that much. If you're selling a car and asking for more than you expect to get, it positions the buyer into believing that the car is worth more.

Another advantage of asking for more than you expect to get is that it prevents the negotiation from deadlocking. Take a look at the Persian Gulf War. What were we asking Saddam Hussein to do? (Perhaps asking is not exactly the right word.) President George Bush, in his state of the Union address used a beautiful piece of alliteration, probably written by Peggy Noonan, to describe our opening negotiating position. He said, "I'm not bragging, I'm not bluffing and I'm not bullying. There are three things this man has to do. He has to get out of Kuwait. He has to restore the legitimate government of Kuwait (don't do what the Soviets did in Afghanistan and install a puppet government). And he has to make reparations for the damage that he's done." That was a very clear and precise opening negotiating position. The problem was that this was also our bottom line. It was also the least for which we were prepared to settle. No wonder the situation deadlocked. It had to deadlock because we didn't give Saddam Hussein room to have a win.

If we'd have said, "Okay. We want you and all your cronies exiled. We want a non-Arab neutral government installed in Baghdad. We want United Nations supervision of the removal of all military equipment. In addition, we want you out of Kuwait, the legitimate Kuwaiti government restored and reparation for the damages that you did." Then we could have gotten what we wanted and still given Saddam Hussein a win.

I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, "Roger, Saddam Hussein was not on my Christmas card list last year. He's not the kind of guy I want to give a win to." I agree with that. However, it creates a problem in negotiation. It creates deadlocks.

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Copyright © 2003 Roger Dawson