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I don't need to convince you that negotiations are important. So much hinges on our ability to get what we want out of others.
Use this short but powerful guide to develop the proper mindset on game-day.
Here are the four basic principles of negotiation.
1. You are entitled (don't be ashamed to ask).
2. A little analysis goes a long way.
3. You don't need tricky tactics (although they can help sometimes).
4. Success in negotiation has more to do with figuring it out, rather than duking it out (it's not about screwing the other guy over, or getting revenge if he puts you in a bad situation - it's about doing the best you can for yourself, with the situation you've got).
And to do that, here are the four aspects of a proper mindset.
3. Identifying Interests.
Most importantly, keep your eye on the prize - seek an agreement which satisfies your interests. Figure out what you want to get out of the negotiation and don't let anything sway you. There is a great quote about this from Arthur Ashe's book, "Tennis and Justice in the Civil Rights Era". Let me reproduce it for you here.
"In a city known for racial segregation, Ashe Sr. (his father) befriended a number of white men and women... On one occasion, he drove one of them Thalhimer [a jew], to the edge of the city to purchase a piece of land. Despite the depression, the seller was reluctant to sell his land to a Jew. "You should have heard the man", Ashe Sr. told his son years later. "He called Mr. Thalhimer all sorts of things, but he never said a word. When the man finished his rantings and raving, they closed the deal. On the way home Ashe Sr. asked Thalhimer how he tolerated all the insults without changing his disposition. He responded, "I came out here to buy the land and in the end I got the land. It's mine now. That man can curse me all he likes."
4. Wishful Thinking (more specifically: what is true for others -- does not apply to me).
One of the most widespread phenomena is that most of us believe ourselves above the mean. On average, when students in a class are asked to rate their performance, 70-80% say they will be better than the mean, even though that is impossible. Only 2-3% say they will be in the bottom 20%, even though that is also impossible. That is not so interesting. What is interesting, is that when asked to guess what other people have said, students are almost always correct when predicting the percentage of people who think that they will be above the mean. So what makes them think they are special? It's exactly that they think that what applies to others, doesn't apply to them, even though we all know that the chance that 70-80 percent will be above the mean is close to 0. In fact, it is exactly 0. The conclusion: we all need to first load-up on some humility, it will extremely beneficial, not only in negotiations, but in life, as well.
"All that matters when bidding is that you accurately predict the distribution of bids."
What that means is that in negotiations, it doesn't matter whether your theory is perfect. It doesn't matter whether you make the optimal bid. It doesn't matter whether everyone else bids like an idiot. All that matters is what they actually bid, and hence all that matters is whether you can anticipate what they will do.
The most important thing is to accurately determine what others are thinking.
You may know everything about negotiations, but there is only one way to truly get better.
Practice and follow your instincts!