Monday, March 21, 2011

Getting more

How to negotiate to achieve your goals in the real world.

This is about a book.

This is not about a book.

There is a book by this title, and I read it. In the middle I thought hey, I understand this.

Living somewhere else would be constant negotiation. Maybe this method could provide a model for understanding, for living. For not being a doofus.

Maybe.

One thing I can say is this is a pleasant book to read. I can see why it is popular. It's the anecdotes. Anecdotes all over. It may be exactly 99 and 44/100ths percent anecdotes, but who's counting? The reading is breezy.

It is a smooth ride down a wide street with wind in your hair. Everything always works. Smiles abound. There are surpluses of satisfaction.

You forget that you expected to learn "How to negotiate to achieve your goals in the real world." You get all kinds of stories, with whipped cream and a pinch of catnip for Fritz as well. You forget that some negotiations fail.

Not to complain though. This is fun, done well. The core is there, a few pages in. You have to pay attention. You can still learn it. It's there.

Stuart Diamond wrote this. He is "one of the world's leading experts on negotiation", and taught at Wharton, and Harvard, and Columbia, NYU, USC, and Berkeley, and, in Dnepropetrovsk, put his hand right on the nozzle of a nuclear-tipped missile that had once been aimed pretty technically at Minneapolis, and negotiated there.

And I haven't, and didn't, and all that. Which is cool. We can't all do everything, which in turn is a good reason to read a book like this and find out stuff. He's good at this. I'm not. I need to learn.

Here is a spoiler: you can read "How to win friends and influence people", by Dale Carnegie instead. And get mostly the same story.

They are really the same book in a lot of ways, though Dale Carnegie is more general.

Key points:
  1. Goals are paramount: What you want? Get that.
  2. It's about them: Know the pictures in their heads.
  3. Make emotional payments: Logic helps but feelings rule.
  4. Every situation is different: Flex. Adapt. Scheme.
  5. Incremental is best: Like dawn, bring the light with baby steps.
  6. Trade things you value unequally: Big, small, tangible, intangible. Barter them.
  7. Find their standards: That's what they stand for, right? Then they stand for it, right?
  8. Be transparent and constructive, not manipulative: No faking, no bluffing, no bluster.
  9. Always communicate, state the obvious, frame the vision: Talk. Be open, be honest, be real. Listen.
  10. Find the real problem and make it an opportunity: Don't get lost in the fuzz.
  11. Embrace differences: More perceptions, more ideas, more options make better negotiations.
  12. Prepare - make a list and practice with it: If you are prepared, you do well.
The short version: Get your head on straight, figure out what you need to get, be open about it, trade things you don't need for things you do, be honest, listen, listen some more, listen even more, think, plan, build emotional connections, see things as the other side does, get to the root, get what you need, and don't be a jerk.

"Done right, there is no difference between 'negotiation', 'persuasion', 'communication', or 'selling'." See?

If not Dale Carnegie, you could instead read "Dress for success", by John T. Molloy. It's almost the same too. Or if you want, you can pick up all this on your own, though a good book hands you a framework to mull over.

So the main point is, if you are living in a new culture, then bringing deep negotiating skills may be seriously smart. Once you are there, then what? Use them. Be all you can be.

I did wonder why all the stories about getting a few cents off one thing, a free upgrade on the other, but the material comes from the author's experience, and his classes emphasize learning this way. An early assignment is to get a discount on something. Anything. Then they proceed, probably repeating the same process until it's ingrained.

I generally agree with something Bruce Burrill, a Buddhist friend, told me around 1970. Which was, you don't solve problems, you leave them behind. Me in general, I normally leave money on the table and get on with it to avoid getting neck deep in the give and take.*

But mine is not the only way. Probably not the smart way. I'm not smart a lot. I keep hearing that. Maybe I should learn too.

Most of of life isn't a single transaction. Life is all day, every day, in the same place, with the same people, and they like it if you learn your way in and keep negotiating.

So if you establish relationships, join a community, fit in, be accepted, be respected, and do more than just showing up, you might be doing it right.

Getting back to Bruce, I'm thinking there may be two ways to move on: by leaving or by landscaping.

I need to learn this (especially for being immersed in a different culture): quit searching for a better garden and cultivate the one you're in.

More quickies from the book:
  • Always communicate.
  • Listen and ask questions.
  • Value, don't blame them.
  • Summarize often.
  • Do role reversal.
  • Be dispassionate.
  • Articulate goals.
  • Be firm without damaging the relationship.
  • Look for small signals.
  • Discuss perceptual differences.
  • Find out how they make commitments.
  • Consult before deciding.
  • Focus on what you can control.
  • Avoid debating who is right.
The stories are like this (imagine it in Spanish if you like):

"It was pouring rain, and Chuck McCall had forgotten his umbrella. His office was four blocks away, and he had an important meeting in thirty minutes.

"He spotted someone getting off the same train who worked in a building a block away. He didn't know her, but he'd seen her on the train before. 'Hi,' he said 'I work a block away from you and I forgot my umbrella. Can I buy you a bagel and coffee on the way if you walk me to work? I know it's a block out of your way.'

"'I'm Chuck,' he continued. He looked up at the sky. 'It's wet. Maybe I can return the favor someday.'

"They walked to work under her big umbrella. He bought each of them coffee and a bagel. When they arrived, she told Chuck she felt good about doing this. They had each made a new friend for the train. 'What I've learned the most,' said Chuck, now the CEO of Astoria Energy, a big energy provider to New York City, 'is that being candid about what you want is a key to success in business and life in general.'

"In a world that sometimes seems full of muggers and other threats, we still have to get through the day. We have dozens of small interactions from the time we get up to the time we go to sleep. Together they can spell a life of frustration, or one of mastery and joy. Using the tools in 'Getting More', you will have a greater consciousness about the world immediately around you in a million different ways."


The fundamental business is living, and this might help with that, especially in a new culture.


Getting More

* Doofus: A person with poor judgment and taste. Dimwit. A stupid incompetent person.

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