I don't exactly consider myself a master deal-closer. However, over the course of my career in startups, acquisitions, and business, I've been involved in quite a few.
The world of negotiation isn't at all what I thought it would be -- the closed-door conference room tensions, sharp words, underhand dealings, suspicious glances, and furious executives. Movies take negotiation drama to unlikely levels.
What it looks like is this -- a group of people sitting around, each intensely interested in the success and well-being of their business, and trying to come to an agreement. Sure, there might be a few mishandled tempers and a couple of sharp words, but I've never seen an all-out brawl.
Since negotiations have differed from my expectations, so have my strategies in succeeding at them. I've discovered a secret power -- the power of psychology.
Nope, it has nothing to do with psychosis, hypnosis, or telekinetic powers, though that would be pretty rad. Instead, I've learned a few scientific facts about the human brain -- how it functions, its method of processing information, and the way these traits translate into human interaction.
I'll share these points with you, and you can unleash them in your next negotiation, whether you're buying a watch or acquiring a business.
1. Absolute Integrity
The squeaky clean sound of this qualification could be a little off putting. Let me explain.
Integrity, when viewed from a psychological perspective, is the attribute of consistency. A person who is viewed by others as possessing integrity will reflect consistent behavior across a variety of life situations.
When you sit down to negotiate with people whom you have not yet met personally, they will know you by your reputation. Thus, they have some preconceived notion of how you're going to act and talk.
How did they learn about your reputation? They probably did a few online searches. They scoped out your LinkedIn profile, read your "about" page on the company website, and viewed a blog post you wrote. Now, they know a little bit about you.
They will interpret your behavior in the meeting based on the perception they formed of you.
My point is to underscore this bit of advice: your reputation must possess integrity. There is no other way for your negotiators to see your integrity other than to identify consistency between your reputation and your behavior. Remember, integrity is about consistency.
Their only benchmark for consistency is what they think they know about you from your online reputation. Does your reputation make you look greedy? Do you brag about your lifestyle? Does your published content reflect balance and fairness?
If you lack integrity in your negotiations, you're off to a disadvantaged start. During the entire negotiation process, you will be working to build integrity or to overcome a poor online reputation.
During the 1990s, Dr. Giacomo Rizzolatti at the University of Parma made an astonishing discovery. While evaluating the behavior and neurology of macaque monkeys, he realized that the primate's innate sense of imitation was linked to specific brain neurons.
When one monkey reached for an object, a monkey who observed that monkey would experience activation in the same part of the brain. It is such a powerful mental phenomena that the neurons are activated simply through observation.
Mirror neurons are now a heavily researched and verified aspect of neuroscience and psychology. The concept is simple, and can be described like this: Monkey see. Monkey do.
When you see someone smile, frown, cry, stand, sit, walk, bow, hunch, leap, or any other motor movement, neurons in your brain start to do the same thing. Your mental mimicry may even result in the same action.
If someone smiles at you, you are more likely to smile back. Why? You may tell yourself that it is because you're trying to be polite. Actually, your brain primed your body for smiling the instant you saw that person's face break into a smile.
How does this apply to the negotiation table? Mirroring another person's actions develops an underlying sense of empathy between the two people.
If the person across the table from you folds their arms over their chest, you might, a few moments later, do the same thing. If, on the other hand, one person at the table leans forward with her elbows on the table others may start to do the same after a few minutes.
If you want to be perceived as responsive, engaging, empathetic, or understanding, traits that may improve your persuasion potential, then you should make a conscious effort to mirror the actions, facial expressions, and attitudes of the other party.
3. Cross your arms to indicate inflexibility.
Body language can be just as powerful as verbal language in a negotiation.
One of the most powerful moves is folding one's arms. It's a power move, and in some situations, you shouldn't do it. Why not? Because it "signals defensiveness and resistance" according to a Forbes piece on body language.
If your intent in the negotiation is to say "no" to a proposal then go ahead and cross your arms. If you've given them your final number or a deal breaker line item, cross your arms.
You must be aware that crossing your arms says something definitive and consequential.
4. Spread your arms to indicate openness.
Most postures have some level of meaning, although you don't want to take it too far.
If your intent is to indicate openness to negotiation, then spread your arms, or at least leave them at your side. An open mentality is reflected in an open physical posture.
5. Dress to impress.
It's cliche to advise "dress to impress." Worn-out as it sounds, there is powerful psychology behind one's appearance.
First, and most forgotten, is that dressing up affects your mind. The better you feel about your appearance, the better you act. You are more likely to act in a confident, impressive, and powerful way.
Equally important is the impression it makes on the other person. She perceives you as someone who exhibits good taste, a concern for self, a concern for others, and overall competence in life.
Dressing nicely can change the entire tenor and outcome of the negotiation process. "Dress the message."
Each of these tactics requires you to say nothing. Each of the tactics are formed or performed in the mind, and their impact is subtle and unstated.
That is precisely why they are so effective. A negotiation process is about changing one's mind, about minds connecting in agreement. It is important to understand how the mind functions in order to improve your chances of success.
What psychological knowledge has made you a successful negotiator?