Effective businesspeople study all sorts of skills, with negotiation being key among them. While some people seem to have a "gift" for effective negotiation, research suggests that such a gift may actually be attributable to a lack of warmth.

Harvard Business School recently published research suggesting that negotiating with warmth can be surprisingly counterproductive. The research tracked linguistic markers such as gratitude, deference, positive/negative tone, and using "please" (amongst others) to measure the tone of the negotiation on a buyer/seller exchange. The researchers then drew conclusions around the effect of the messaging tone on counteroffer patterns and negotiation outcomes. Interestingly, they also tracked the negotiators' expected outcomes. Most participants expected the warm style to be more effective...and they were wrong.     

These behavior patterns originate in many ways--from where, how, and when we were raised to gender to family dynamics to inherent personality traits. Regardless, we can learn to switch on different behavior patterns to override many of our natural inclinations, as long as we are mindful of those tendencies.

Here are some key tenants to follow for a strong negotiation:

Ask More, Get More

It's a lot easier to start high and come down than to start low and climb up. Know your worth and don't second-guess your value. You're at the negotiating table because the other side sees value in you, too.

Do Your Research to Back Up Your Asks

Take the time to research available data related to comparable ranges for whatever it is you're negotiating. If you're negotiating with a data-driven person, being able to point to this research may seal the deal for you. Even if that's not the case, having hard facts to back up your "ask" will give you the confidence to own your end of the negotiation.

Know When to Hold 'Em, Know When to Fold 'Em

Before you go into a negotiation, you should already know your minimum acceptable outcome. Without that, you may find yourself conceding to a bad deal under the pressure of trying to make something work.

Own Your Language

The language you use while negotiating conveys your emotional state. Use strong, assertive phrases and leave your feelings out of it. Instead of "I just feel like $80,000 is a little low and wonder if you can come up?" say, "$80,000 is too low based on my research. This role is definitely worth $90,000 with my level of experience."

Reinforce Your Value

The person you're sitting across from in a negotiation is also a human being with emotions, directives from on high, and probably a bottom line to manage. Don't let your self-interest override an acknowledgment of their needs and how you can help to meet them. "My experience in landing deals in the markets you're exploring will save you ramp-up time and will translate into strong sales."

One caveat: read the culture and/or personality of the party you're negotiating with and adjust accordingly. To not be "warm" is not a license to be a jerk. You don't have to engage in adversarial or dramatic behavior to be direct. Being an egomaniacal a**hole will unwind a negotiation faster than any agreement over business terms. After all, financial terms can be worked out, but if your personality presents a long-term liability, the deal may already be dead in the water.

Published on: Oct 19, 2018