You Can Negotiate Anything

Negotiation is a field of knowledge and endeavor that focuses on gaining the favor of people from whom we want things. It is the use of information and power to affect behavior within a “web of tension.” If you think about this broad definition, you’ll realize that you do, in fact, negotiate all the time both on your job and in your personal life.

You Can Negotiate Anything

You have more power if you believe you have power and view your life’s encounters as negotiations. Your ability to negotiate determines whether you can or can’t influence your environment. It gives you a sense of mastery over your life. It isn’t chiseling, and it isn’t intimidation of an unsuspecting mark. It’s analyzing information, time, and power to affect behavior … the meeting of needs (yours and others’) to make things happen the way you want them to.

Challenge your assumptions.

Don’t act as though your limited experience represents universal truths. It doesn’t. Force yourself to go outside your own experience by vigorously testing your assumptions. You’ll discover, to your astonishment, that many of them are false. Raise your aspiration level.

As a negotiator, take some risk, break free from the precedent of your past experiences, challenge your assumptions, raise your aspiration level, and increase your expectations.

When to negotiate?

Whether you do or don’t negotiate anything should be strictly up to you, based on your answers to the following questions:

  1. Am I comfortable negotiating in this particular situation?
  2. Will negotiating meet my needs?
  3. Is the expenditure of energy and time on my part worth the benefits that I can receive as a result of this encounter?

Only if you, as a unique individual, can answer yes to all three of these questions should you proceed to negotiate. You should always have a sense of mastery over your situation. Pick and choose your opportunities based upon your needs. Don’t allow yourself to be manipulated or intimidated by those who aren’t concerned with your best interests.

You have the freedom to choose your attitude toward any given set of circumstances and the ability to affect the outcome. In other words, you can play a much greater role than you thought in shaping your life and improving your lifestyle.

Weakness can be a strength.

In negotiation, dumb is often better than smart, inarticulate frequently better than articulate, and many times weakness can actually be strength.

Don’t be too quick to “understand” or prove your intellect at the outset of an encounter. Watch your listen-talk ratio. Learn to ask questions, even when you think you might know the answers. Furthermore, if you approach others asking for help, it tends to set the climate for a mutually beneficial relationship. At the least, you’ll cause the other side to make an investment that ultimately accrues to your advantage.

Don’t hesitate to say, “I need your help with this problem, ’cause I dunno.”

Always address the other side with tact and concern for their dignity. Even if they have a reputation for being obnoxious, negative, and contrary, they will be disarmed by an approach that conveys positive expectations. If given a chance, most people try to be accommodating and play the role suggested for them. In other words, people tend to behave the way you expect them to behave.

Try to see the problem from their point of view or frame of reference. Listen with empathy, which means stop yourself from working on counter arguments while they’re speaking.


You have plenty of power. Use it to sensibly implement objectives that are important to you. You owe it to yourself not to live by what someone else thinks you ought to do. Within reason, you can get whatever you want if you’re aware of your options, if you test your assumptions, if you take shrewdly calculated risks based on solid information, and if you believe you have power.

Believe firmly that you have power, and you’ll convey that self-confident perception to others. It is you who determine how they see, believe, and react to you.

The power of competition: When you create competition for something you possess - what you have moves up in value. It’s always easier to get a job or clients when you already have one. Never enter a negotiation without options.

The power of legitimacy: Legitimacy can be questioned and challenged. Use the power of legitimacy when it’s advantageous for you to do so and challenge that power when it’s advantageous for you to do so.

The power of risk taking: You must be willing to take risks while negotiating. Risk taking involves mixing courage with common sense. If you don’t take calculated chances, the other side will manipulate you. Intelligent risk taking involves a knowledge of the “odds,” plus a philosophical willingness to shrug your shoulders and absorb a manageable loss without whining. Before chancing anything, calculate the odds to determine whether the potential benefits are worth the possible cost of failure. Be rational, not impulsive. Never take a risk out of pride, impatience, or a desire to get it over with.

The power of expertise: When others perceive - or believe - that you have more technical knowledge, specialized skill, or experience than they have, they treat you with a consideration that ranges from respect to awe. You can use this attitude of acceptance, respect, and awe in negotiating situations. Whenever possible, actually have the savvy others assume you have. Prepare yourself ahead of time. Above all, don’t be pretentious.

When you are confronted by “The Expert” on the other side of the desk or table, don’t be overimpressed. Keep in mind that if they didn’t need you or what you have to offer, they wouldn’t be there. Train yourself to occasionally say, “I don’t understand. You lost me three minutes ago.” Or ”Can you explain that in layman’s language?” A dose of irreverence, plus a dash of innocence, when combined with polite persistence and the asking of questions, will often change the attitude and behavior of the so-called expert.

The power of the knowledge of “needs”: If you can establish a reasonable guess about what someone’s needs are, you can predict, with remarkable certainty, what will happen in any interaction.

The power of investment: At the beginning of each encounter, you should approach people collaboratively. If you want to become competitive later, or give an ultimatum, you can … but only at the end, after the other side has made an investment.

If you have something difficult to negotiate—an emotional issue, or a concrete item that can be stated numerically, such as price, cost, interest rate, or salary—cope with it at the end of a negotiation, after the other side has made a hefty expenditure of energy and a substantial time investment.

The power of identification: Why do you choose one product over the other? Why do you deal with one company and not others? It’s not just because of quality, convenience, and price. What often tips the scale one way or the other is your degree of identification with the people you come in contact with.

How do you get others to identify with you? If you act as a professional and reasonable person in dealing with people you can gain their cooperation, loyalty, and respect. Don’t pull rank or overplay your authority. Rather, try to convey understanding and empathy. Speak to the other person’s needs, hopes, dreams, and aspirations. Approach each person on a human level with the hope that you can help them solve their problem.

The power of persistence: Most people aren’t persistent enough when negotiating. They present something to the other side, and if the other side doesn’t “buy” it right away, they shrug and move on to something else. If that’s a quality you have, I suggest you change it. Learn to hang in there. You must be tenacious.

The power of persuasion: Most of us, in our civilized society, rely too heavily on reasoning capacity to make things happen. We’ve been raised to believe that logic will prevail. Logic, in and of itself, will rarely influence people. Most often logic doesn’t work. If you want to persuade people, show the immediate relevance and value of what you’re saying in terms of meeting their needs and desires.

The power of attitude: If you take yourself too seriously, it puts you under pressure and stress. Try to regard all encounters and situations, including your job, as a game, as the world of illusion. Pull back a little and enjoy it all. Do your best, but don’t fall apart if everything doesn’t pan out the way you’d like it to. Remember that things are seldom what they seem.

Train yourself to say in every one of your negotiations, “If everything goes wrong, will my life end?” If the answer to this question is no, teach yourself to say, “Big deal,” “Who cares?” and “So what?” Develop the attitude of caring—but not caring that much.


Deadlines - your own and other people’s - are more flexible than you realize.

Since most concession behavior and settlements will occur at or even beyond the deadline, be patient.

True strength often calls for the ability to sustain the tension without flight or flight.

Learn to keep your automatic defense responses under control.

Remain calm but keep alert for the favorable moment to act.

As a general rule, patience pays.

When you do not know what to do, do nothing.

Precipitous action should be taken only when it’s guaranteed to be to your advantage. Generally speaking, you cannot achieve the best outcome quickly; you can achieve it only slowly and perseveringly. Very often as you approach the deadline a shift of power will occur, presenting a creative solution or even a turnaround by the other side.

The people may not change, but with the passage of time, circumstances do.


Only under emergency circumstances and a pressing deadline do we see ourselves as embarking upon a negotiation. Suddenly, we are in the boss’s office, entering the car dealership, or about to greet the Sears refrigerator salesman. Of course, obtaining information under these conditions presents enormous difficulties.

The actual starting point of a negotiation always precedes the face-to-face happening by weeks or even months.

Some of us assume that the more intimidating or flawless we appear to others, the more they will tell us. Actually, the opposite is true. The more confused and defenseless you seem, the more readily they will help you with information and advice.

With this approach you will find it easy to listen more than talk. You should prefer asking questions to giving answers. In fact you ask questions even when you think you know the answers, because by doing so, you test the credibility of the other side.

Written on August 27, 2023