Random Learnings

Negotiation.001: The First Rule

No, its not determining your reserved price. Or that BATNA and WATNA. 

We negotiate every single day of our lives. Even species not as sophisticated as ours, do it. Every day. But their need to negotiate results from their drive to survive. Humans have to do it. Especially the ones living below the poverty line. But as we climb up the economic, political and social ladder, the need to negotiate results from the desire to assert.

Assert our thoughts, our ideas. Display power in an evident way or a nuanced way. Matter. 

There are men and women who assert with ease. There are some who do not want to but may have to, given the circumstances. Irrespective, one has to negotiate. Even the ones who shy away from negotiation because they might think that:

  • to sit at a negotiating table is beneath them
  • a negotiation exercise is not worth it
  • they might hurt the feelings of the counter-party
  • they can adjust no matter what so negotiation is not required
  • they are not good at negotiating


So let us break some myths here before getting to the first rule:

  • First, negotiation can never be beneath anybody. We are where we are as a species because we are superior negotiators. It is as simple as that.
  • Secondly, negotiation is totally worth the trouble. Negotiation not only helps us win loofahs in a bathing argument, it actually helps us innovate. If you want to be a change agent, if you want to challenge the status quo, you need to learn how to negotiate. Better. Every day.
  • Thirdly, if you do not get personal and hit someone below their belt, you would not be hurting anyone’s feelings any time soon. And yes, a superior negotiator is not one who wins it all, but one who makes the right concessions so that he might win the next negotiation round too and the one after that. You cannot do that around bruised egos.
  • Fourthly, one-sided adjustment is not sustainable. Whether it be your personal life or your professional life, be ready to negotiate with your spouse and your boss. Again, negotiation does not mean shouting across a table, slamming the glass on it and hurling abuses. No. Negotiation is asserting your presence, your rights, your wants in a civilized manner and appreciating the same of the party you are negotiating with.
  • Fifthly, as mentioned in the first point, we are all superior negotiators. We each have our own style. Some may feel more comfortable by being the first one to state their list of demands (so as to fix the anchor price or reference point), while some may like to listen to everyone before stating anything. It depends. On the situation, on the type of our personality. On the characteristics of the ones sitting across the table. That said, we can only be better negotiators only by negotiating more often. The best negotiators are the best because they have negotiated with more people and situations than you and me. It is that simple.

Which brings us to:

The First Rule: Do not shy away from the negotiating table. 

Embrace negotiation. Fail. Falter. Make amends. Try again. Negotiate with your spouse as to who is to do the dishes next. Negotiate with your boss if he overloads you with work or does not respect your well-earned family time. Negotiate with society and challenge the norms you feel are silly and stupid. Negotiate to win. Negotiate even after you lose.

Just do not shy away. Negotiate. The world would be all the better for it.

Amartya Dey, India

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