How to win a negotiation? Decode the subtext of people’s demands

Haggling over a number? That's a terrible way for people to negotiate, says Harvard International Negotiation Project head honcho Dan Shapiro.

Personal Growth

Negotiation is part of life. Whether we're talking about something as grandiose as healthcare or as personal as buying a car, we often spend the vast majority of the negotiation process haggling over the numbers. This is often a bad way to look at it, says Dan Shapiro. And he should know: he's head of the Harvard International Negotiation Project and knows an awful lot about getting two opposing sides to see eye to eye. So what's the best way to do so? Perhaps talking about why each party wants what they want and negotiating from there. When polarized debates come to a head over "use vs them" mentalities, looking at it from this angle—i.e. the nuts and bolts of a position and less so the end result—can humanize each side to the other. Dan Shapiro's latest book is Negotiating the Nonnegotiable: How to Resolve Your Most Emotionally Charged Conflicts.

How to Resolve Any Argument—Even Nasty Political Ones

Getting into an argument is easy. But getting out by having both sides see the other side? Not as impossible as you might think.

Culture & Religion

Everyone is good at starting an argument. It's easy. Just lob a verbal bomb at the other side and duck for cover. Presto! You've created an argument. But what about finishing an argument? What about finding an agreement with the other person? Dan Shapiro would know. As the Director of the prestigious Harvard International Negotiation Program, he knows a thing or two about getting two diametrically opposed sides to not only speak to one another but also work together to resolve the conflict. It all comes down to how either side presents itself to the other: think less "I'm right, tell me how you're wrong" and (much) more along the lines of "What do you hear me saying?". That way, Shapiro suggests, you're starting off on the same step rather than positioning yourself as the person in authority.

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It's no surprise that we are in a pretty turbulent time in terms of a political divide. With Democrats and Republicans at each other's throats both in congress and in American streets, it appears that both sides have gone tribal. And by tribal — Dan Shapiro notes — we're often overlooking that the other side are human beings just like us. Shaprio suggests we move beyond the tribal mentality and try and understand the collective "us" that America still is under all this hubris. Shapiro goes on to say that because we hold these opinions so deep—be they about abortion or healthcare or what have you—our brains see any threat to these notions as threats to us as a person. When half the country feels one way about an issue with no perceived common ground in the middle, we revert back to these tribal instincts. And it can do a lot of damage to societies if this cultural dissonance is left unchecked.

Such big change won't happen overnight. But the sooner we recognize the perceived "other side" as just like us, then we can move beyond these political squabbles and work together towards a greater good.

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Negotiation Favors the Prepared Mind

I can’t really influence you most effectively if I don’t know where your mind is at now.

One of your greatest sources of power in a negotiation is preparation.  Most of the time, people walk in to a negotiation -- if it’s let’s say a salary negotiation very well prepared about their own thinking about the amount of raise they want.  They give very little thought to what the other sides’ interests are.  Why might this other side want to say yes or no to your proposal?  And my recommendation: prepare.  Before your next important negotiation, spend 30 minutes, 20 minutes in the car on your way to work and just thinking through what are my interests, why do I want that raise.  Yeah, it’s money but why.  Why do I want the money?  And how urgent is it or is it the fact that I need more time with my family actually.  What are your interests and probably more important what do you think the other sides’ interests are in this negotiation.  Take a few minutes.

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