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Bargaining for Advantage

Negotiation Strategies for Reasonable People

By G. Richard Shell
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Bargaining for Advantage by G. Richard Shell

Bargaining for Advantage (1999) is a guide to becoming a more efficient and intelligent negotiator. Combining insights from negotiation research with tried-and-tested tactics by some of the world’s leading business experts, this is a book for anyone who wants to improve their bargaining skills.

Key idea 1 of 9

Better negotiating starts with embracing your authentic strengths.

There’s a Danish folk saying that goes, “You must bake with the flour you have.” In other words, make use of what you have at your disposal rather than wishing for something else. It’s a good principle to keep in mind when it comes to stepping up to the negotiating table.

The key message here is: Better negotiating starts with embracing your authentic strengths.

Everyone negotiates differently, both in business and in life. That’s no surprise, since we all have different levels of competitiveness. 

Take Steve Ross, for example. He founded Warner Communications and was later CEO of Time Warner. One day, Ross was playing canasta, a card game, on a Warner corporate jet. He’d lost the last game before the plane was due to land, but, rather than conceding, he ordered the pilot to continue circling the airfield until he’d won a hand. This wasn’t unusual – Ross often brought this level of intense competitiveness to his business dealings.

At the other end of the spectrum, there’s popular American talk show host Larry King. In the middle of King’s career, his agent tried to manipulate CNN’s owner, Ted Turner, into giving King a large raise. The idea was to seek out offers of better pay from other networks, then use them as leverage in contract negotiations with Turner. In the midst of negotiations, however, King told Turner he’d stay at CNN, accepting just a modest raise. Driving a hard bargain simply wasn’t in his nature.

A basically nice person, like Larry King, will find it hard to act the aggressive huckster. And similarly, if you’re highly competitive, like Steve Ross, you’ll find it difficult to come across as an easygoing collaborative type. That’s why it’s important that you’re true to your own character; otherwise, your negotiating strategy will be an incoherent mess. Plus, people recognize and respect authenticity.

Not a naturally assertive person? Well, you don’t need to pretend to be like Steve Ross to be a great negotiator. You should embrace your particular strengths. Those might include an ability to carefully listen to the other side and understand how their needs coincide with yours. Or maybe you have a knack for finding an agreement that works for everyone. And if you do happen to be a natural competitor, develop a strategy around that trait. 

Now, natural character aside, there are some general tips that all negotiators can take on board. We’ll check them out in the following blinks. 

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