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How to negotiate just about anything

Negotiating is a way of life. We negotiate with our spouse about money, with our kids about curfew and with salespeople about prices. If you feel like you’re always coming out on the short end of the stick, try some of these proven negotiating tactics.

Woman at job interview

A successful negotiation begins with knowing what you want and why, as well as understanding what the other side wants and why. The ultimate goal of negotiating is a win-win outcome, so “start by asking great open-ended questions to learn what the other side wants,” says Vivian Scott, author of Conflict Resolution at Work for Dummies. If they believe you understand their needs, they’ll be more at ease when giving you what you want. “Create solutions that meet both your needs.”

Master negotiator Roger Dawson, author of Secrets of Power Negotiating, believes anyone who follows a few simple techniques can become a good negotiator:

1Ask for more than you expect to get

Dawson calls this “the key to success at the bargaining table.” You just might get what you ask for, but the only way to find out is to ask for it. This is an especially effective tactic when dealing with egotistical negotiators who want to win at all costs.

Don’t be afraid, says consumer savings expert Andrea Woroch. When you’re negotiating a big-ticket item such as a house, car or refrigerator, don’t be shy about asking for a better deal. “The worst that could happen is that the sales associate says ‘no,'” says Woroch, “but the best is that you save extra money.”

2Don’t accept the first offer

Be reluctant — at least at first. Before you even begin negotiations you should already have some idea of what you’re willing and unwilling to accept. Dawson breaks this tactic down into three stages:

  • Listen carefully to the proposal and ask a lot of questions
  • Thank them for their time but explain that their offer is not exactly what you’re looking for
  • At the last moment ask, “Just to be fair to you, what is the very best you can offer?”

Try this tactic with your spouse. It’s a great way to keep the communication flowing. Neither of you knows what the other needs or wants unless you discuss it.

3Silence is golden

After you’ve listened to the other side’s proposal, say, “I’m sorry, you’ll have to do better than that.” Then be quiet! Silence creates an atmosphere of tension and awkwardness. The next person to open her mouth will make a concession, says Dawson, so wait it out.

4When you’re asked for something, ask for something in return

Whenever you are asked to make a concession in the negotiation, say, “If I can do that for you, what can you do for me?” They will likely make a concession to you, says Dawson.

Try this on your teenager when he wants to borrow the car. A win-win might mean he gets the car and you get a) a full tank of gas, b) a washed vehicle, c) some bread and milk from the grocery store, or — if you’re really good — d) all of the above!

5Let them know you’re prepared to walk away

The number one pressure point in negotiations is your ability to project that you’ll walk if you can’t get what you want, says Dawson.

Be prepared to walk away, says Kathi Elster, author of Working with You Iis Killing Me and Working for You isn’t Working for Me. “If you want something so bad that you can’t walk away from it,” says Elster, “then you cannot negotiate.”?

Related video: Understanding body language

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