The language of negotiation is primarily a language of conversation and rapport: a way of quickly establishing relationships and getting people to talk and think together. Which is why when you think of the greatest negotiators of all time, I’ve got a surprise for you—think Oprah Winfrey.
Her daily television show was a case study of a master practitioner at work: on a stage face-to-face with someone she has never met, in front of a crowded studio of hundreds, with millions more watching from home, and a task to persuade that person in front of her, sometimes against his or her own best interests, to talk and talk and keep talking, ultimately sharing with the world deep, dark secrets that they had held hostage in their own minds for a lifetime.
Look closely at such an interaction after reading this chapter and suddenly you’ll see a refined set of powerful skills: a conscious smile to ease the tension, use of subtle verbal and nonverbal language to signal empathy (and thus security), a certain downward inflection in the voice, embrace of specific kinds of questions and avoidance of others—a whole array of previously hidden skills that will prove invaluable to you, once you’ve learned to use them.
Here are some of the key lessons from this chapter to remember:
■ A good negotiator prepares, going in, to be ready for possible surprises; a great negotiator aims to use her skills to reveal the surprises she is certain to find.
■ Don’t commit to assumptions; instead, view them as hypotheses and use the negotiation to test them rigorously.
■ People who view negotiation as a battle of arguments become overwhelmed by the voices in their head. Negotiation is not an act of battle; it’s a process of discovery. The goal is to uncover as much information as possible.