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The Negotiation Blog

Negotiation for people who hate to negotiate

Dan Green

 

  •       Feel more confident
  •       Become more persuasive
  •       Be more successful

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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Is your enthusiasm bad for business?  If you’re on the client facing side of things, there’s a good chance that it is.  Take this recent article from sales guru and all around stand up guy Bill Caskey entitled “Too much eagerness.  Bad for clients.  Bad for you” where he pushes back on the myth that being an enthusiastic, eager salesperson helps people close deals.  More often than not, Caskey explains, it’s the cause of more lost deals than won deals.  This, of course, goes against most of what salespeople are taught-  let your passion shine through, convey emotion etc.  So what are we left with?  “The unenthusiastic salesperson”?  Sounds like a real recipe for success, I know.

But the truth is, times have changed.  Nobody needs or wants the bubbling energy and faux enthusiasm of the smooth talking salesperson of yesteryear.  We’re looking for something different now.  We’re still looking for someone friendly, and knowledgeable, yes.  But above all, we do business with people that are thoroughly committed to helping us solve the problems that matter to us.  And 9 times out of 10, enthusiasm and eagerness do more to derail that process than anything else.

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Ever notice that the harder you try to influence someone, the more closed minded they seem to become?  Realized that as you make better and better arguments, the less willing to listen some people get?  Me too.  And it drives me bananas.

While it may be true that the (insult of choice) sitting across from us is being pig headed, there’s often another reason why they’re shutting us down: We’re more stubborn than we think we are.

Our barrage of persuasive facts and compelling evidence often only serves to show people how certain we are of ourselves, not how great our proposal or idea is.

It’s easier to influence others when you show them you’re open to influence as well.  Talk less, listen more, and ask questions you don’t already know the answers to.

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I’ve come to a rather important realization about persuading people:  it’s really freaking hard.

Not only that, when we fail, we tend to fail hard.   Don’t believe me?

Well, how do you feel about the last guy who tried to talk you into buying something you didn’t want?  When was the last time you heard an “elevator pitch” that didn’t make you want to jump out the window?

Despite our repeated failures we believe that persuading or changing others is a necessary part of life, and a core part of business.  But there is something wrong with our concept of persuasion.  There is something deeply troubling that lies behind most of the persuasion theorists’ work and advice.

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I’m currently redesigning my company’s logo.  After drafting some initial mock-ups on my own last night, I solicited feedback from a group of friends whose opinions I value. Here are some of the messages I received:

“..too derivative.”

“Not keen on any really….”

And my personal favorite:  “Thanks for sending. Honest first thoughts – let’s get you a slick graphic designer. Talk soon.”

To say that this feedback was unhelpful is an understatement.  In fact, as I read it before my coffee, it was utterly demoralizing.  In fact, I found myself somehow blaming my mood on them and even judging them on their “stupid” or “unhelpful” responses.  Hold up.  What was happening here?  How could I feel so totally deflated by the advice of people I really respect, especially when I asked for that advice from them?!  And how did I have the cajones to try to blame it on them?

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