...To protect yourself and expand your options
“Did you have a specialty?” he smarmed, “I see that you were also a philosophy major.”
Blank stare. I was about to give a deposition, and he was the counsel for the other side.
“Mine was ethics.”
“Oh,” I said. Ew is what I thought.
Cause we weren’t friends, cause he was a lawyer, cause it was his job to do whatever it took to discredit me, cause ethics. Please. It just didn’t sit right.
I have a problem. I have (A) a refined gut instinct for BS, but (B) an overly sunny disposition on human nature, and (C) often no clue what my behavior should be in light of (A) and (B). So I will recognize a lie or distortion immediately, but give someone the benefit of the doubt longer than necessary because, in the moment, I don’t know what or how to respond.
It came too late for a few times in my life when I really should’ve known better, done better, on my own behalf, but I can thank David Rosen’s book 99 Negotiating Strategies: Tips, Tactics, and Techniques Used by Wall Street’s Toughest Dealmakers,* for bringing me to (D) Duh. When your gut tells you not to trust someone, then (C) modify your thinking and behavior in light of that.
Rosen’s peers have deemed him one the toughest negotiators in the U.S., which could be why he’s hired by major corporations and those on the Forbes 400 list; to make real estate deals in glitzy locales, handle high profile federal disputes, and kick butt when negotiations stall.
I have been studying conflict management — granted, mostly peacekeeping and mediation — on and off for 30 years, have a graduate certificate in mediation and negotiation, and reading this self-published book opened my eyes. Or, better, extended my peripheral vision.
Some people are negotiating all the time, even when there’s no formal negotiation or anything apparent at stake. They are using honed techniques to gain advantage, in any situation or relationship, any advantage at all that may be hanging around for the taking.
This may be a blend of conscious and unconscious thinking and behaviors, but it is an orientation to winning, achievement, success, getting the things one wants. It is laying the groundwork for future benefit, putting pieces in place in advance of needs. It’s the MO of many unsavory types and it’s an element of defensive entrepreneurship that we should all take to heart. Keep both of these things in mind.
If a phrasing or behavior or line of questioning walks and talks like a duck, if it smells off, it’s intentional. It’s deliberate, it has a goal, it’s part of an arsenal of rehearsed and refined tools.
The sharpest negotiators not only have dozens of practiced tricks up their sleeves, they layer one on top of the other using multiple strategies at once.
Good negotiators are prepared to a degree you don’t want to imagine. Not only that, but consider how each round of meticulous preparation they’ve done over the years has solidified and honed their techniques.
We need to know these things at a bare minimum, too, so that 1) we can recognize them in the world around us, and 2) protect ourselves as we need do.
However, we should work on taking our understanding of such strategies up a notch, so that 1) we’re prepared to respond productively when you encounter them, and 2) we can use them to some degree as we need to.
The attorney from my opening anecdote? He was using #24: Create a Sense of Affiliation with the Target and #74: Use the Internet (to do as much research as possible on your target). Yes, Rosen uses the word target throughout his book and it keeps his predatory perspective front of mind.
Let’s look at some of the 99 to get a sense of what we’re talking about. As you read them, don’t just imagine how and when you would use them, but how others may engage these techniques when communicating with you.
#13: Always Pause Before Responding to an Offer Slow down. It gives you time to think. It sends a stronger non-verbal message. It injects uncertainty about your response. It prevents you from looking hasty, tired, or desperate. It conveys you have options you are considering.
#51: Use Documents to Persuade, #52: Quote Authorities Extensively, and #26: Use Social Proof Always have documentation of some sort to refer to that backs up your points and requests, as well as the ability to cite authorities who agree with your statements. Obviously, use the most reputable and credible sources, but also understand the power of printed matter and external authorities in and of themselves. The word of a pro and/or something in writing come with their own power of persuasion almost regardless of the content. Similarly, use social proof — the beliefs and perspectives of the target’s friends, religion, political affiliation, professional organizations, etc. On the flip side: Never take the other side’s documentation or citations at face value. Poke at their veracity and challenge as needed.
#56 Invade Personal Space, #72: Empower Your Target to Say No/Walk Out, and #78: Use the Ping-Pong Technique A subset of Rosen’s strategies involves keeping your target off balance in some way in order to increase their vulnerability, unsettle their focus, prompt truth telling, and accrue other general advantages. Violate the norms of personal space — stand a little too close, arrange the furniture to there is no table or desk for the other to “hide” behind. Ping-ponging is jump back and forth frequently between minor and major points of the negotiations. It’s distracting, confusing, and it can mask which points are more or less important to you.
You can also gain the upper hand by allowing the other to walk away. (This is also part of #32: Convey Indifference.) Borrow from his sample statement:
“Look, I will be quite honest with you. This might not be a deal you want to make. If it isn’t, let’s stop this right now and we can all spend our time working on something else. I would not be offended in the least if you got up right this minute and walked through that door. I might to that myself. If you are serious, let’s keep going. If it’s not for you, let’s kill things thing off right now.”
He says that no one has ever walked out on him after a statement like this.
#73: Speak from Emotion Don’t think weepiness, drama, or hysteria, think of the Greek rhetorical device of pathos: Speaking from the depths of your heart and with sincere emotion to move others. Done right — especially if you’re truly sincere! — this is highly credible and a demonstration of strength. Consider that others can always dispute your facts, but not your feelings.
#85: Eye Contact Is Critical to Credibility We know this, but Rosen reminds us. And, he suggests never working from notes. Be fully engaged and use direct, intentional eye contact to underscore the power of your words and the assuredness of your stance.
There are 99 negotiating strategies on the wall and we’ve only taken down 12.
Do you need to know the others?
Let me appeal to #94: Trust No One and #96: Being Naive Is a Sin. Acting Naive Isn’t:
Yes, you do! 85 left to go…