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AMACOM, How to Negotiate Like a Child - Unleash the Little Monster Within to Get Everything You W

AMACOM, How to Negotiate Like a Child - Unleash the Little Monster Within to Get Everything You W

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Published by tano caridi

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Published by: tano caridi on Dec 20, 2012
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01/10/2014

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Before we get any further into the merits of changing the rules, let
me cover the more extreme application first: breaking the rules.
After all, as that old cliche´ goes, rules were made to be broken.
Children love that line—especially when they’re up against a rule
they don’t like. It’s a rite of passage to test the rules and find out
which ones aren’t enforced. (Witness the administration of George
W. Bush and its efforts to ignore, contravene, and rewrite the Ge-
neva convention regarding the treatment of prisoners.)
Sometimes breaking the rules is inadvertent—who knows all
the rules for everything? (Right on red, but only after a full stop
and not into a two-way street—but that’s only for certain states.)
Rules may be so complex and even contradictory that it is impossi-
ble to follow them all the time. There’s a running joke in aviation:
If you follow all the Federal Aviation Administration regulations
you’ll never have an accident. True. But you’ll never get off the
ground, either. (That’s the joke part.) The impossibility of obeying
all the rules all of the time—be they society’s laws or a business’s
rules—means that at some time or other, you will have to make a

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HOW TO NEGOTIATE Like a Child

semiconscious or deliberate decision to violate a rule (maybe even
several times during any given day). It’s not a matter of whether
you might do it: You will break rules. And this has nothing to do
with how ethical you may be. Society and the business world are so
complex that even the most ethical and decent human beings are
going to break the rules now and then.
That’s different, of course, from breaking the rules on purpose.
But just as it’s true that you must violate some laws, regulations,
rules, and customs during your day-to-day life, it’s also true that
not all laws, regulations, rules, and customs are, in themselves, just
or moral—or even a good idea. Within the guidelines of morality,
your conscience, and what society allows, you can decide that
breaking certain rules is justified and necessary in your business life.
The party you’re negotiating with may or may not be com-
pletely versed in what the rules are, either—and that may be one of
the discoveries you can use to your advantage. If the other side—
your boss, perhaps—is very busy, she may not have the time to
keep up on all the company’s rules. But that doesn’t mean that she
won’t look them up if she needs to. So be cautious to test your
limits when using this technique.
That caveat aside, testing is worthwhile: Probing how timid or
hesitant your negotiating opponent is will give you a sense of how
far you can push and how tough you can be during an actual nego-
tiation. In order to know whether you need to ‘‘sweat the small
stuff,’’ you need to learn whether you’re dealing with a loosey-
goosey crowd or are among people who are sticklers for propriety
in every area. If you break a minor rule and your boss, contractual
partner, or colleague points out your transgression, you know that
the ‘‘break the rules’’ advice won’t work for you in this situation.
But if your environment is more like the Wild West than a tightly
run ship, well, pardner, make the most of it.
Which brings me to an important point about testing the other

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BREAK THE RULES

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side before you break any rules: Do it well in advance of negotia-
tions. You need to find out what you can about the other side’s
attention to detail and probe their attitudes about rule-keeping be-
fore you start doing anything they might consider off-limits. When
you were a child and you stayed at a friend’s house, you learned
that you had to observe the rules where you were. The same holds
true now that you’re an adult. If your mother wouldn’t let you sleep
in your clothes but it’s fine with the mom at the sleepover party,
then sure, sleep in your clothes. But if the parents hosting the sleep-
over expect you to make your bed in the morning—something your
own parents never asked you to do—then you’d better be prepared
to do it right, hospital corners and all.
How do find out what the rules are in each situation . . . and
which ones can be safely broken? Again, you do what kids do: You
gently, but regularly, test the other side’s will, resolve, and views by
crossing the artificial line created by ‘‘the rules.’’ If this technique
sounds vague and imprecise, with no clear objective delineated,
that’s because all of those things are true: Testing the other side is
just that—you’re poking it with a stick just a little bit to see what
happens. You need to keep your ears and eyes open for whatever
reactions ensue, because they may not be all that obvious to you.
Not every negotiating tool should be reserved for the actual negotia-
tions—people who anticipate that they will have to negotiate at
some point in the future and who plan for those unknown but
inevitable negotiations often win.
One last point: Expect to be tested yourself. Some people do
this by design; others because they retain some childlike qualities.
While you’ll have an advantage over your opponents (or negotiating
partners) by knowing how these techniques work, you may also
find that many other people use these kid-negotiation techniques
too, either innately or because they resemble another negotiating
skill they are familiar with.

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