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July 15, 2009

Opposite Day

by Katie

A while back I wrote about how people hate losing.  It is a quirky little nit in our psychological make up that causes us to dislike losing more than we like winning.  As a result, we put a lot more energy and effort into avoiding losing than we do into winning.

I got a gentle reminder recently of how powerful fear can be.  Especially when we’ve worked hard to puff ourselves up and be tough, courageous forces to be reckoned with.  That’s when fear bites at us the hardest.

This is all to say that if you’re negotiating a deal and you keep putting your offer in the most attractive terms possible but the other side isn’t biting, step back for a second.

Ask yourself, what is it about this deal that might be frightening for them?  What are their risks?  What would be bad for them if this doesn’t work?

Think about their fears.

Then rearticulate your offer.  Instead of using terms of attractive wins, talk about the ways they can assuage their fear and reduce their risk by accepting your offer.

Make sure it is relevant to them; speak to their fears and concerns, not your own.  It is your job to make sure this deal is good for you, not theirs.  You’re less likely to get a bite if you explain how their action can really help you.

Take some time and think about what’s not on the table that might speak to their concerns.  Is there something you can easily offer that might directly address their fears?  If so, incorporate it into your offer or run it by them to see if they’d be interested.

We often try to block out our fears when we negotiate; fear suggests weakness and we want to be strong.  But sometimes the answer isn’t in what we want, it’s in what we don’t want.

It’s a good thing to remember when trying to find the right answer for a difficult problem you’re working on.


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