The Secret to Negotiating a Better Deal

Years ago, my boss suddenly resigned. I was pretty sure his boss would offer me his job, but it didn’t happen immediately. He told me he wanted to think it over and consider his options.

A Pen and Contracts - Photo courtesy of ©, Image #5206508

Photo courtesy of ©

Frankly, I was disappointed. From my perspective, it was a no-brainer. I was the logical choice!

I could have reacted in several ways:

  • I could have pouted.
  • I could have written a memo, detailing my qualifications.
  • I could have launched a campaign, asking people I knew he respected to recommend me.

Instead, I smiled and said, “No problem. Take your time.”

I then maintained a positive attitude and worked hard. A few days later, he made his decision and offered me the promotion. I was thrilled.

In this brief transaction, I was acting on a piece of advice I had gleaned from Dr. James Dobson’s book, Love Must Be Tough, an unlikely but powerful negotiation resource:

He who needs the other person the least is in control of the relationship.

Love it or hate it, this is the best negotiating advice I have ever received. I have put it to use in countless situations:

  • It works in buying a car, real estate, or other property.
  • It works in negotiating the salary and benefits for a new job or a promotion.
  • It even works in parenting and other interpersonal relationships.

The trick is to really put yourself in the position where you don’t need the other person as badly as they need you. How do you do that? Three suggestions:

  1. Be a “don’t-wanter.” Never fall in love with something you are trying to acquire—at least not at first. Be a little aloof. Don’t get emotionally attached. Kick the tires. (I learned this concept from Robert G. Allen, author of numerous financial books)
  2. Don’t get too eager. I have usually found in negotiations that the first person to name a number loses. Let the other person go first. Pace your responses to theirs. If they take 24 hours to respond, you should take 24 hours to respond.
  3. Give yourself options. This is the most important suggestion. The more options you have, the more you will believe you don’t need any particular offer. For example, want to sell a car at the best price? Generate multiple offers. It will change your negotiating posture and put you in a position of strength.

This may sound manipulative or even unethical, but I don’t think you can afford to ignore the very real psychology that is at work in serious negotiations. You do so to your own determent.

And if you are ultimately committed to negotiating win-win relationships (as I am), you can still do so. You can just ensure that the other party doesn’t win at your expense.

By the way, if you want to beef up your negotiating skills, I highly recommend Roger Dawson’s very helpful book, Secrets of Power Negotiating.

Question: What is your best negotiating tactic? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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