On You Can Negotiate Anything

I recently read You Can Negotiate Anything by Herb Cohen.

As the title indicates, this book is about negotiation, which the author defines as: “What is negotiation? It is the use of information and power to affect behavior within a “web of tension.” If you think about this broad definition, you’ll realize that you do, in fact, negotiate all the time both on your job and in your personal life.” Herb then summarizes the three pillars of negotiation, the main premise of the book: “In every negotiation in which you’re involved—in every negotiation in which I’m involved—in fact, in every negotiation in the world (from a diplomatic geopolitical negotiation to the purchase of a home)—three crucial elements are always present: 1. Information. The other side seems to know more about you and your needs than you know about them and their needs. 2. Time. The other side doesn’t seem to be under the same kind of organizational pressure, tune constraints, and restrictive deadlines you feel you’re under. 3. Power. The other side always seems to have more power and authority than you think you have.”

Below are key excerpts from the book that I found particularly insightful:

1- “Within reason, you can get whatever you want if you’re aware of our options, if you test your assumptions, if you take shrewdly calculated risks based on solid information, and if you believe you have power. ”

2- “You have more power sources at your fingertips than you realize! 1. The power of competition…2. The power of legitimacy. Legitimacy can be questioned and challenged. Use the power of legitimacy when it’s advantageous for you to do so and challenge that power when ifs advantageous for you to do so…3. The power of risk taking You must be willing to take risks while negotiating. Risk taking involves mixing courage with common sense…4. The power of commitment…By syndicating your risk you put yourself in a position to exploit the favorable opportunity because the risk is only moderate for you…5. The power of expertise…Establish your background and credentials early in he confrontation. If you do, your statements may not even t challenged. In other words, cash in on the fact that in complicated negotiations, participants often lack specialized knowledge of certain aspects of the matter being discussed…6. The power of the knowledge of “needs” for: for: 1. The specific issues and demands, which are stated openly. 2. The real needs of the other side, which are rarely verbalized…7. The power of investment…My point is this: If you have something difficult to negotiate—an emotional issue, or a concrete item that can be stated numerically, such as price, cost, interest rate, or salary-cope with it at the end of a negotiation, after the other side has made a hefty expenditure of energy and a substantial time investment…8. The power of rewarding or punishing…If I’m aware of your perceptions and needs, and if I know you think I have power over you, I can control your behavior…9. The power of identification…You will maximize your negotiating ability if you get others to identify with you…10. The power of morality…11. The power of precedent…12. The power of persistence…Persistence is to power what carbon is to steel. By gnawing through a dike long enough even a rat can drown a nation. Most people aren’t persistent enough when negotiating…13. The power of persuasive capacity…even if you present me with overwhelming evidence that I understand, should the conclusion depress me, I will remain unconvinced. Your facts and logic may be unassailable, but their acceptance will not meet my existing needs and desires…14. The power of attitude…Try to regard all encounters and situations, including your job, as a game, as the world of illusion. Pull back a little and enjoy it all.”

3- “1. Since most concession behavior and settlements will occur at or even beyond the deadline, be patient. True strength often calls for the ability to sustain the tension without flight or fight. Learn to keep your automatic defense responses under control. Remain calm but keep alert for the favorable moment to act. As a general rule, patience pays. It may be that the thing 5 do, when you do not know what to do, is to do nothing. 2. In an adversary negotiation your best strategy is not to reveal your real deadline to the other side. Always keep in mind that since deadlines are the product of a negotiation they are more flexible than most people realize. the benefits and detriments that will ensue as you approach, or go beyond, the brink.3. The “other side,” cool and serene as they may appear. always have a deadline. Most often, the tranquility they display outwardly masks a great deal of stress and pressure. 4. Precipitous action should be taken only when ifs guaranteed to be to your advantage. Generally speaking you cannot achieve the best outcome quickly; you can achieve it only slowly and perseveringly. Very often as you approach the deadline a shift of power will occur, presenting a creative solution or even a turnaround by the other side. The people may not change, but with the passage of tune, circumstances do.”

4- “Watch the increments of concession behavior, since they send a strong message about the real limits of authority.”

5- “A negotiation is more than an exchange of material objects It is a way of acting and behaving that can develop understanding, belief, acceptance, respect, and trust. It is the manner of your approach, the tone of your voice, the attitude you convey, the methods you use, and the concern you exhibit for the other side’s feelings and needs. All these things comprise the process of negotiation. Hence, the way you go about trying to obtain your objective may in and of itself meet some of the other party’s needs.”

6- “Let me now elaborate on how the negotiating process and reconciling opponent’s needs can be used to bring about collaborative Win-Wm outcomes: I. Using the process to meet needs 2. Harmonizing or reconciling needs…In general, the reason we are at odds on an issue may stem from three areas of difference: 1. Experience 2. Information 3. Role…3. Role…Successful collaborative negotiation lies in finding out what the other side really wants and showing them a way to get it, while you get what you want.”

7- “Accomplishing mutual satisfaction using the collaborative Win-Win style involves emphasis on three important activities: 1. Building trust 2. Gaining commitment 3. Managing opposition.”

8- “How can you ensure that you do not make visceral opponents? My two rules are stated in terse negative terms: 1. Never forget the power of your attitude 2. Never judge the actions and motives of others.”

9- “Much like a great chess master, a winning negotiator needs to know every possible strategy from the opening gambit to the end-game play. Then he can enter the event with confidence that he is prepared for every possible eventuality that might occur. Nonetheless, he strives for the best outcome that can give everyone what he wants. And he knows that compromise may be acceptable, but it’s not mutually satisfying. It is a back-up, a concluding strategy that he may ultimately have to use to avoid the consequence of a deadlock.”

10- “Characteristics of Phone Negotiations: 1. More misunderstanding 2. Easier to say no 3. Much quicker 4. More competitive 5. Greater risk  6. Advantage—caller…The following are some suggestions that can be effortlessly customized to help you achieve success: 1. Be the caller/ not the callee 2. Plan and prepare 3. A graceful exit 4. Discipline yourself to listen 5. Write the memorandum of agreement.”

11- “To maximize your impact as a negotiator— no matter whom you are dealing with—you must personalize both yourself and the situation…Try not to negotiate on behalf of an institution or organization, no matter how large or small. Negotiate on behalf of yourself, representing the institution.”


Omar Halabieh

You Can Negotiate Anything


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