I have been told that I am a fairly good negotiator. That raises a question: is negotiating inherent or can it be learned? I think it can be learned.

While I have taken many courses about how to negotiate (several from Marty Latz, one of the best negotiators of our time), I spend a lot of time just thinking about the concept of negotiating. I have concluded that I follow two basic rules when I negotiate:

  1. The other side always has more information than me; and
  2. The other side is always smarter than me.

When I follow these two rules, I generally don’t get into too much trouble when I’m negotiating.

Knowledge is power. Whenever negotiating, one must learn as many facts and as much law on the subject as possible, given the client’s constraints of time and money. The side with the most information will generally have an edge. In negotiating, we call that “leverage.” Leverage can generally be created by having options. Options can only be created by knowing all the facts, capabilities and desires of the parties, and determining how goals may be accomplished. If there is more than one way to accomplish a goal, there are options, and such options, even if not exercised, may provide a way to achieve the primary desired goal.

Intelligence is most likely determined at birth. However, the kind of intelligence I’m talking about is more than just raw IQ. It is more akin to “wisdom,” which is acquired over much time and helps in determining the emotions of each side, the “uncommunicated words” that accompany each proposal, and ultimately, the right hunches to play. If I start with the proposition that the other side is smarter than me, I will most likely play my hand a bit more conservatively. As a result, I make less mistakes. Downside risk often outweighs upside gain. Consequently, my clients usually prefer to win when they are absolutely sure that winning will given them an overall improved position. They don’t cry over lost opportunities that carry substantial risk.

If I follow these two rules, I generally fair pretty well when I negotiate. Perhaps you should consider setting up some similar rules for yourself the next time you need to negotiate something. If you need help in doing so, don’t hesitate contacting me or our other great negotiators at Schober Schober & Mitchell, S.C., attorneys, at 262-785-1820.