DATE: March 01, 2010
By Chris Bosch, Research and Education Director
A funny thing happened on the way to the car dealer. Having decided on the practical necessity of purchasing a minivan to accommodate our active family—kids and cousins, camping and sporting gear—my wife and I were leaning toward the purchase of a used Toyota Sienna. Yes, this was well before the recall nightmare began for the world’s number one automaker.
With my mind focused on buying a Sienna, suddenly I began seeing them everywhere. Siennas at intersections. Siennas on the highway. Siennas parked in driveways, at the grocery store, at the mall. Why had I not noticed the Toyota minivan before, and why was I suddenly seeing them everywhere?
The answer is that I was subconsciously using mental filters to sift through and block information about other minivans. I would go crazy if I had to analyze every piece of information about every minivan. This subconscious mental shortcut was my way of coping.
The use of mental shortcuts, which we all use in our daily lives without really thinking about them, is one of three common strategies used by master negotiators. Our society has a special place for master negotiators. We admire their ability to get the best deal wherever they go because they appear to have acquired some secret knowledge about how to influence others so persuasively. We are in awe of them because they possess many likable qualities—confidence, control, insight—and they tend to be less vulnerable to manipulation by others.
Much of this is true, except for the notion that these negotiators have acquired some special knowledge. Most good negotiators use strategies that you and I use all the time without really thinking about them. You can use these tactics, too, next time you are trying to persuade your employer, a co-worker, your spouse, or a salesperson to see it your way.
1.Making Mental Shortcuts
By deciding to buy a Sienna, my brain had become pre-programmed to filter out all other vehicles. My heightened sensitivity to the Toyota minivan created a new awareness for it. Likewise, you can use this mental shortcut of basing decisions on information that is readily available in your negotiations to help persuade others that your choice is indeed the best one.
For example, if you’re trying to persuade your spouse which restaurant to eat at, referring to a glowing restaurant review, mentioning a friend’s great experience, or presenting a discount coupon all become very persuasive factors in deciding where to eat. The more your spouse hears good things about the restaurant, the more likely he or she is to begin to tune out other choices. In no time, your spouse will probably rave about the restaurant to your friends and family because he or she has new information available to share with others.
2. Using Anchors
This is another tactic people use all the time but don’t often consciously think about. In financial transactions, an anchor is usually the first figure used by either party in a negotiation. Unions use anchors in negotiations all the time. The anchor is an important figure because it limits the field of offers and counteroffers from that point forward. For example, a person selling a car would want to set a high price as the anchor so that the negotiation will hover as close as possible to that high number.
Researchers have found that most people respect an anchor set by the other side, which then provides a higher return during negotiations. In situations where objective information about the value of something is not readily available, an anchor can really sway the other person to see things your way. The next time you host a garage sale and a potential buyer asks you for the price of that home gym set that was collecting dust in your basement, set an anchor that is a little higher than what you would be willing to accept and see where the price finally settles. You may be pleasantly surprised.
3. Presenting Options
Options, both similar and contrasting, are really about our love of choice. Good negotiators and parents exploit this love of choice to their advantage. If you have kids, you’ve probably used this tactic before.
The whole family has piled into the car except Johnny, who refuses. Sound familiar? Johnny is trying to exert control to get his way by refusing to get into the car. Sensing that a strong, demanding response will only be met with rising conflict, the wise parent offers him an opportunity to exercise control by providing a choice: you can choose to sit behind mommy, daddy, or in the middle. By offering a choice, you concentrate the negotiation on the desirable option—getting Johnny in the car—while conceding the final decision and control to him.
The example above uses similar options to get the desired result, but contrasting options can be just as effective. For example, realtors will often show prospective buyers one or two poorly maintained and over-priced homes along with several homes that the realtor really wants to sell. The realtor starts showing the shoddy homes first so the well-maintained and reasonably priced homes stand out. The buyers fall in love with the homes shown later because they appear much more attractive and worthy of their price in contrast to the decoys. Control is ultimately in the hands of the buyers, and their satisfaction level is high because they have made the decision from available options.
The next time you are negotiating with your spouse to go away for a weekend with the guys or gals, try one of the above negotiating tactics. Talk it up and list all the great things about the weekend away, the great deal you can get on the package, how refreshed you will feel—the break your spouse will get.
Set the bar way up. Start with a week in Hawaii with your girlfriends and settle for a weekend at the spa—luxurious facials, manicures, pedicures, massages, aromatherapy.
Or offer a contrasting option. You will host a poker tournament with six buddies, smoke cigars, eat lots of chili, spill chips and beer, set a $400 buy-in with $20 antes, and promise not to bet the title to the car like last time. Or you and three buddies will head to a resort for a peaceful, 72-hole golf weekend at a reasonably priced resort in Myrtle Beach. It’s your choice, honey, really!
Call one of our knowledgeable regional reps today to start the process of transforming your workplace into one marked by progressive labour relations.