From a tender age, we strive to present ourselves to the world in the best possible light. If you have any doubt about that, nowhere is this basic human need demonstrated better than in the playground! Children don’t want to be “different” to their classmates or playmates; they DO want to “belong”.
And this doesn’t change throughout life! We spend the rest of our days doing the best we can to showcase our strengths and concerned about how we measure up and are perceived to measure up, to those around us.
So what does all this have to do with negotiating? LOTS! What’s more it ostensibly remains a well kept secret! So let’s dispel the secrecy.
What happens when we are in the company of people to whom we feel inferior? And what MAKES us feel inferior to them? To answer the last question first, it might be many things. They might appear more intellectually smart than we are; more culturally educated, more snappily dressed, even more beautiful. And we feel intimidated. On the other hand, when we are in the company of people whom we perceive to be “behind” us; less smart, educated, beautiful etc than we are, or even if we decide we are on equal footing, we immediately feel more comfortable and as though we are certainly “ok”.
But what happens to the person who feels inferior? Well they sure don’t feel at ease, neither does conversation flow. They become stand off-ish and up go the barriers! And right here is where negotiations are likely to stall! Negotiations require the cooperation of BOTH parties – if you are attempting to negotiate with someone who’s barriers have just gone up, you have as much chance of getting the result you want as you’d have winning The Melbourne Cup on a donkey!
How to Multiply Your Chance of Successful Negotiating!
In his book “Start with NO”, Jim Camp advises us to “let the adversary help” us. The reason for doing this, is to put them more at ease, show we’re really on an equal footing and far from being “Mr /Ms Slick”, we are just as human as they are. Your adversary will quickly begin to drop any guard they might have put up when they began to feel vulnerable in your presence. Rather than presenting an image of perfection, ask to borrow some paper to make a note on because “you left your notepad on your desk” or borrow a pen because yours has run out of ink. In their “helping” position, they will relax once they see that just like them, you too have some foibles; you have common ground; you RELATE!
Once the barriers have come down, conversation tends to open up.
Remember homicide detective Colombo from the television series of the same name? He would mumble his way into suspect’s homes, dropping his pen, pretending to forget what it was he really wanted to ask until he suddenly remembered after he’d left and have to ring the doorbell again. When he finally got through interviewing, off he’d shuffle in his ill fitting trench coat to drive off in his beat-up looking car. While I’m not suggesting you emulate Colombo to a T, there was something about the way he made himself appear that caused those he was investigating to let down their guard and start talking. But underneath that scruffy exterior was a razor sharp mind, just waiting and working stealthily towards the American equivalent of “You’re nicked!”
Colombo was in fact, a master of negotiating. He knew exactly how to get his prospective “nickee” to open up and give him just what he wanted.
Try it next time you’re negotiating for anything. Start small if you want to. Forget about your vanity or your ego if you’re the type of person who relishes feeling superior to others and keep your focus on the result you want to achieve!