The difference between man and beast is that man assumes he is better than the beast. That is an interesting perspective as in the wild man only has a chance if he is well trained, knows the jungle, and, most important, has a BIG gun!

Similarly, professional negotiators do well when they are prepared and armed with pertinent facts and figures. The everyday negotiator is less likely to approach each interaction with the discipline a professional does. So, like a man in the jungle without a gun, we must learn to cope with minimal preparation time and fewer facts than we would like.
In everyday dispute resolution you have no choice but to assume certain things about the other person to get anything done. If you are negotiating for an item at a flea market, garage sale or other retail venue you won't know the person well enough to know when they have reached their limit in making concessions to you. So you will have to assume some things.

To assume is to presume or presuppose. Assume also means to imagine. This is dangerous territory in any negotiation because you are taking a gamble. Like poker, negotiating is all about prudent risk taking. You must rely on your communication skills to help validate your assumptions quickly and without the benefit of research. The first step, however, is to minimize your assumptions.

The best way to minimize your assumptions is to:

  • Ask the question. In the garage sale scenario, simply ask what the person's best price is. Look for their non-verbal signs or 'tells' that indicate if they are giving you their best offer or hedging a bit.

  • Ask a friend. Again, to stay with the garage sale theme, you can always turn to the woman's husband, if he is standing there, and ask him the same question, 'Is that really her best offer?' seeking affirmation or another 'tell'.

  • As a last resort, try a bluff. A third way to test an assumption is to bluff that the response was unacceptable. In the same garage setting you could try shaking your head a little and turning to leave. This may illicit their reaching out with a better offer or you losing the opportunity. Obviously you only deploy this tactic is you are prepared to walk away because you have determined the object tis not worth the asking price.
  • man_maninhead.png
  • Listen to the voice in your head. Your mind has a way of sensing more than you think you are. If you get that 'feeling' in your stomach or the little 'voice in your head' tells you the deal is not right or bad, listen to your intuition.

Assume less, listen more:
To improve your negotiating skills it is always beneficial to listen to what is being said. I mean actually listen:

  • Don't listen while you are thinking of a response.

  • Don't listen while thinking of something else you should or want to be doing.

  • Don't listen while thinking the other person is an idiot, overly aggressive, a patsy or attractive.

  • Don't listen while doodling or writing.

To listen is to 'hear' what is being said. Hear the actual words. Hear how they are being said noting the delivery, the tone, the inflection and the non-verbal mannerisms. Most important, hear what is not being said. You can only do this if you are totally focused on the speaker visually and audibly.

No one said negotiating is easy.