January 2017 archive

Ways to Negotiate with a Liar

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I came across both this and this article on negotiation the same day and so I took it as a sign that someone wanted me to sharpen my negotiating skills. Actually, it’s probably some algorithm that knows I’m inclined to read these types of articles, but not surprisingly, this seems to be a topic of interest for many. The original article on How to Negotiate With a Liar by Leslie K. John was one of Harvard Business Review’s most popular articles this past summer. The art of negotiation is a fascinating topic because, well, it’s just that—an art. It’s a skill that takes practice. In order to be good at it, you must study it and, most importantly, practice it.

John offered these tips on how to handle a challenging negotiation:

  1. Spur Cooperation
    • The challenge: People are closed off and guarded during a negotiation, you need them to open up
    • Solution: Be the first to disclose on an issue of importance, our instinct is to match their transparency. As a result, people will gain trust and offer information of their own
  1. Ask the Right Questions
    • The challenge: Many negotiators guard sensitive information that could give them a competitive advantage—they lie by omission, failing to volunteer pertinent facts
    • Solution: People are less likely to lie if you make pessimistic assumptions (“This Business will need some new equipment soon, right?”) rather than optimistic ones (“The equipment is in good order, right?”)
  1. Make Sure Your Questions Get Answered
    • The challenge: Not getting direct answers
    • Solution: Remember the question—write down question. Leave space to jot down your counterpart’s answers and only move on to the next question when the answer to that question is “yes”
  1. Don’t Put an Emphasis on Confidentiality
    • The challenge: Assuring others that you will maintain their privacy and confidentiality may raise their suspicion and cause them to clam up and share less
    • Solution: Pose questions in a casual tone rather than formal one when addressing topics of privacy or confidentiality
  1. Listen for Leaks
    • The challenge: Not receiving enough information to move the negotiation forward
    • Solution:
      • Listen to your counterpart and try to gather nuggets of information from the conversation
      • Try to get your partner to show their hand. Give your counterpart two choices—if she expresses a preference for one over another, she’s offering information about her priorities and giving you insight into reasoning
      • Request contingency clauses in the form of financial consequences in case she doesn’t come through—if she doesn’t want to agree to them, it may be she’s lying