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The Negotiation Blog

Negotiate what you’re worth.

Dan Green

This blog boils down over 30 years of research to help you to:

  •       Understand why people do what they do
  •       Deal with difficult people
  •       Become more persuasive and influential

 

Bad+decisions_10d830_3567715I’ve got bad news for you.  Research suggests your brain is hardwired to make poor decisions.  The good news is that this explains why a lot of your negotiations go wrong.  And the even better news is that just knowing this information will offer a way out.

Let me explain.  We tend to think of rational decision-making and problem solving as a process where we evaluate multiple options, and eventually decide on the best one.

For example, if your teenage kid has driven to a party and then gotten drunk, we think they should be choosing between the multiple ways they could get home.  Should they drive home? Or is it better to take a cab, stay over, ask a friend to drive, call Mom and Dad, or maybe take the bus?

That’s the way they should be thinking, however it turns out that’s not the way their brains actually work.   In reality, most of the time their brain isn’t analyzing all these options, but is only looking at one at a time.

In fact, research shows that 69% of the time they are only looking at the one option that is staring them in the face (i.e.- driving home… drunk), and deciding whether or not they want to say yes.

Authors Dan and Chip Heath call this exaggeratedly narrow focus “whether or not” decision-making.

“Whether or not” decisions lead to suboptimal and often dangerous outcomes in life.

This should greatly concern you since those same researchers found that executives are even worse.  Studies show that in business decisions we fail to consider more than one option 70% of the time!  Am I the only one who is shocked by this discovery?

We look at a proposal, an offer or an idea and decide “whether or not” to say yes.  70% of the time our brain is blinded to the multiple options available to us and we are stuck evaluating them one by one.

This contributes to seriously suboptimal outcomes.  It leads us to think in terms of scarcity, which drives haggling and win-lose behaviors.  We become overly attached, emotional and inflexible about ideas that we like.  And it leads to a false sense of certainty about how good our decisions really are.

The advice to generate multiple options in a negotiation is not new.  What is new is the knowledge of how infrequently we do this in our lives, which partly explains why so many of our negotiations go wrong.

You may know that you “should” be brainstorming and generating multiple options before getting stuck on any one.  But research suggests you default to ignoring that advice.

My sense?  The odds are stacked against you.  Don’t rely on your “innate creativity”.   Force yourself to either write down multiple options that might solve the problem prior to a negotiation, or create a space during the conversation where that’s all parties are allowed to do.

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cupcakeYou should probably be eating more cupcakes.  It’ll make you a better negotiator.  I have pretty conclusive evidence showing that glucose increases your cognitive faculties, improves physical stamina and even your ability to manage your emotions when negotiations get tough.

In the words of Jeffrey Lebowski, new shit has come to light.  I have recently come across 3 reliable sources educating me on the mind-altering powers of the red velvet variety. 

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http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-images-angry-caveman-image19764879My ancestors really screwed up my negotiation style.  Yours too.  I mean, my ancestors didn’t screw you, but yours sure did… those bastards. I can prove it too, but you’ll have to bare with a short history lesson first.

Human beings have been around for about 200,000 years and our evolution traces back 2.5 million, according to a 20 second google search.  If you figure that over the centuries our ancestors probably procreated on average at the age of around 15 or 16, that means we are at least 12,500 generations old.  In other words, all of us have around 25,0000 direct ancestors, each of which passed along a genetic footprint to us. That’s a lot of footprints.  Kind of makes you feel dirty, doesn’t it?

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If there’s anything I remember from my undergraduate and graduate level economics classes it’s the relationship between business growth and capital investment. That, and there is some kind of problem with lemons.

 

Take that with a grain of salt though.  I didn’t do so well in economics.  I was more of a “The Art of Listening”, and “Understanding Planet Earth” kind of guy.

 

If you’re thinking of following in my footsteps, let me save you the trouble and sum up what I learned in non-nerd/ fruit speak:  good businesses make good investments, and bad businesses make bad investments.

 

I just saved you 2 years and 72 grand in Ivy League tuition.  You’re welcome.

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thrangu-monastery-final-dayIn 2005 I became the first foreigner to live in the 1300 year old Thrangu Monastery in Tibet.  For 3 months I lived with 260 Buddhist monks in the ancient Monastery, on the side of a mountain in Kham, eastern Tibet.  After an unforgettable 90 days, it’s a mystery to me why foreigners have ever been allowed back.

Here are some surprising things you may not know about Tibetan monks: They eat copious amounts of meat, they do not completely reject material possessions (they have a particular interest in nice watches) and they love NBA basketball.  That may not be true across Tibet, but it was certainly the case in Thrangu.

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