8 Negotiation Tips For Introverts

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Negotiation 3 300x200 8 Negotiation Tips For Introverts

On Monday night, I gave a negotiation seminar at the Harvard Club in New York City. Since there were many introverts in the audience, we spent a lot of time talking about how to turn introverts’ perceived weaknesses into strengths. Here is a sneak peek of our discussion:

First, we did a warm-up exercise in which people broke into pairs. I asked one person in each pair to give his or her partner a dollar — and then to negotiate to get it back.  Invariably, when I conduct this exercise, I find that some people, instead of negotiating, simply tell their partners: “Oh, just go ahead and keep the dollar.” Or: “Here, of course you can have it back.”

1.  These people tend to be accommodators. They dislike conflict and would rather give in than have it out. If this describes you, then you’re probably aware of the downsides of this style – the tendency to yield, to be a doormat.

2.  But this style also has hidden advantages that you should be aware of.  Accommodators tend not to sweat the small stuff. They don’t get distracted by haggling over unimportant issues.  They are natural harmony-seekers.  And they’re more powerful than they realize, because when they do insist on something, people know they mean it.  They have natural credibility. When they say, quietly but firmly, that they can’t spend a penny more than X for their dream house, people believe them.

Here are a couple of ways to neutralize the downsides of this personality style:

3.  How to make opening offers: If you are a conflict-avoider or are simply inclined to fairness, you probably tend to choose as your opening gambit a number close to where you want to end up, a number you believe is fair.  “Then we can avoid the whole annoying negotiating dance,” you reason.  “Then my counterpart will see that I am a person of good faith, and s/he will treat me similarly.”

Well, maybe.  But often people feel better about the outcome of a negotiation if they had to work for it a little.  If you agree too quickly on a price, they may assume that they could’ve done better – and instead of feeling they were dealing with a person of good faith, they feel cheated!

4. Beware of “anchoring”:  Also, research shows (sadly enough) that people who start with extreme positions and concede slowly from there do better than those who begin reasonably and try not to budge. This is partly because of a phenomenon called “anchoring,” in which the extreme position becomes the psychological anchor of the negotiation. You spend all your time and energy negotiating about a ridiculous number that never should have been on the table in the first place.

5. When you notice someone trying to “anchor” you, neutralize them right away by using the “power of the flinch”.  React to the other person’s extreme offer with shock and disbelief: “Say what???” You don’t have to be demonstrative to do this.  A simple eyebrow raise will often work.  Or: “That’s way out of the ballpark.  Why don’t we start all over again with a more reasonable number.”

6. How to anchor: On the other hand, if you want to try out anchoring for yourself, you need to do your homework.  Pick a number that’s favorable to you, but not so crazy that you alienate the other side.  If you overshoot, you come across as naïve (you don’t understand the market) or obnoxious (who wants to deal with an over-reaching person?).

Be especially careful in salary negotiations or other situations where preserving the relationship is paramount.  Anchoring is often better suited to one-off negotiations, like buying a car.)

7. Splitting it down the middle: Do you tend to handle negotiations by saying “let’s split it down the middle and call it a day”?  If so, beware. That can work well, but only if you and your counterpart started out with similar mindsets.  If the other person staked out an extreme position and you began with a reasonable one, then splitting it down the middle will not serve you.

When others invite you to split it down the middle, don’t be afraid to point out when this would yield an unfair result.  The drive to fairness and reciprocity appears to be encoded in our DNA.  The invitation to split things 50/50 sounds so eminently fair and reciprocal that it can feel embarrassing to resist it. Neutralize your embarrassment by using the word “unfair” in your reply:  “That would lead to an unfair result.”

8. Are you naturally collaborative?  Studies suggest that introverts tend to prefer collaborative approaches to competitive ones. Happily, negotiation research also shows that people who successfully practice a collaborative style of negotiation get the best deals of all — because they expand the pie for everyone – including themselves.

In a future post, I’ll share some tips on how to negotiate collaboratively, including some advice on how to listen well.

(This post is intended as helpful advice, not legal counsel! The negotiation technique you use at any given moment depends of course on the particulars of the situation.)


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  1. Natalie on 04.06.2013 at 08:11 (Reply)

    Dear Susan,

    I just red your book. Very impressing, However, I felt confused while reading this article. I believe the information is very interesting but it’s hard to distinguish between “do not do” and “do”. If the list of tips is more “do this” oriented, I guess that would eliminate any confusion or misunderstanding.

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