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Negotiation: Use more head, less heart

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in Leaders & Managers,Workplace Communication

Humans are not exactly rational creatures, and negotiating ranks among the least rational of our activities.

Consider this explanation from researchers Keith Stanovich of the University of Toronto and Richard West of James Madison University: People use two kinds of thought. The first is intuition: fast and easy, driven by emotion. The second is reason: slow, conscious and more logical, requiring effort.

To give yourself an edge in negotiations, apply these strategies:
  1. Identify situations requiring extra vigilance. List important upcoming deals that will benefit from extra thought. These might involve lots of money, tricky issues, many players (or important ones) and big changes.

    Right off the bat, plan them for your best time of day, and make sure you have your facts ready.

  2. Throw off time pressures. You’ve already established that this negotiation is important, so don’t try to strike a deal over lunch. Instead, set aside a morning and use lunchtime either as a celebration or an extension.

    Sometimes, your adversary will try to jump-start your talks. Ask to reschedule.

  3. Cut it into pieces. Despite your natural desire for closure, break up the work. Use several days for exchanging basic data by e-mail, hold initial discussions by phone and schedule more days for substantive, face-to-face talks. Plan breaks every hour or two, so both sides can digest new facts and organize their thoughts.

  4. Consider it from the outside. Decision-makers perceive situations through either an “insider” or “outsider” lens. If they’re deeply immersed in something, they tend toward an “insider” view. If they can detach themselves, they’ll think more rationally and see other points of view.

    Many smart people stake a lot on decisions driven by intuition and overconfidence. Instead, bring in an outsider — a hired gun or a friend with a cool head — to help you. If you can’t do that, ask yourself how you’d advise someone you cared about in the same situation.
—Adapted from “When Not to Trust Your Gut,” Max Bazerman and Deepak Malhotra, HBS Working Knowledge,

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