Last fall, my 13 graduate negotiation students, few of whom described themselves as good negotiators when class started, mostly shuddered at the prospect of one assignment in particular: Each week, they had to negotiate something. A matter at home. A better price on a purchase at the mall. A contract with a vendor at work. A problem with a colleague.
We kept track of their negotiations outside of class in our online discussion forum, where they could post about the negotiation, celebrate, or ask for insights about what could have been done better. Seven weeks later, when the term ended, these 13 graduate students had successfully completed dozens of home and workplace negotiations, and I estimate they saved well over $10,000 in purchases ranging from new carpet to sporting goods to coffeemakers. Not bad for a group that claimed not to like negotiating!
Next up in my 10-year blogiversary retrospective and prize giveaway are a few of my favorite negotiation tips and stories. These just scratch the surface of the total posts on the subject, of course, so if you want more, check out the Conflict Zen archives.
When I was eight, I rather desperately wanted a pair of “boy sneakers.” Up until then, I had been wearing the little white canvas “girl sneakers” that a lot of mothers seemed to buy their daughters in the 60s. All of my girl classmates had them too.
I couldn’t stand those sneakers.
I thought, though the word may not have existed then, that they were dorky. I seemed to go through a lot of them because I wore out the toes. Those little girl sneakers just didn’t stand up well to tree climbing, kickball, stopping bikes with a toe-drag, and building forts in the woods.
I wanted a pair of red boys’ Converse All-Stars… read on
A few weeks ago, my husband Rod bought a new car. I think it’s fair to say he doesn’t much enjoy the prospect of negotiating the price of a car and so he tends to drive his vehicles for a very long time before he feels ready to go through the process again. I, on the other hand, relish a chance at negotiating for a new car, so I’ve had to work hard to keep my nose out of his planning, pondering and bargaining. We tend to buy our own cars, solo, partly due to very different negotiating styles and partly due to a chance for some independent decision making in the midst of a lot of marital collaborating.
And I did stay out of it. Almost… read on
When I’m mediating a dispute involving money, I notice how frequently parties want the other side to make the first offer. It’s clear that many people consider it a disadvantage to go first. If you know anything about the concept of anchoring, though, you also know that making the first offer can actually put you in a very powerful position.
Psychologists Daniel Kahneman (also the winner of the 2002 Nobel Prize in economics) and Amos Tversky have researched the kinds of mental shortcuts, called heuristics, which people take when making a decision involving uncertainty. They’ve found that we tend to make decisions using some kind of reference point (anchor) and that we adjust our own number higher or lower according to that reference point.
And here’s the rub: Even if the reference point we use isn’t associated with the decision itself, it can influence us heavily… read on
Women, when you’re negotiating salary, business contracts, departmental budgets, auto purchases and the like, figure out a way to imagine yourself as negotiating on behalf of others and not just for yourself.
If you’re negotiating salary, frame it as negotiating on behalf of your family. If you’re negotiating a new car purchase for yourself, frame it as bargaining on behalf of your elderly mom, for whom you run errands on weekends. If you’re negotiating a business contract, frame it as negotiating on behalf of your division or organization.
I’ve been advising women to… read on
The scene: A home decorating show on television. The characters: Wife, husband, interior decorator. The setting: Couple’s living room with a big, blank, newly painted wall behind the beautiful new sectional couch.
The scenario: The couple is trying to select art for the wall. The husband likes the traditional-looking oil painting, the wife likes the contemporary wall sculpture.
The interior decorator proposes a contemporary oil painting, saying, “It’s the perfect compromise!” Wife and husband each nod in agreement, but their faces say it all: When the decorator departs and the cameras are packed up, that painting will be taken down faster than a bee-stung stallion.
It’s not that compromise doesn’t have it’s place in relationships… read on
“The object of good mediation, good negotiation and good conflict management isn’t to get people to agreement. It’s to help people reach agreement they’ll want to act on once we all leave the table.”
I say this when I train advanced mediators and when I teach mediation and conflict management in organizations and groups. And I said it last night while meeting with a community group interested in getting “inside mediator” training for some of their members.
Why do solutions and agreements fall apart after the organizational conflict appears resolved? I see these eight reasons more frequently than any other… read on