Note: While reading a book whenever I come across something interesting, I highlight it on my Kindle. Later I turn those highlights into a blogpost. It is not a complete summary of the book. These are my notes which I intend to go back to later. Let’s start!

Negotiations cannot be won or lost. What you can do, however, is determine exactly where you are in the negotiation process, and what the next steps need to be.

Negotiations aren’t the final round in a bout to determine winner and loser; they are a process – at times a very long one. This is why from the start you need to rid your mind of any thoughts of negotiations as just another round in a duel. Negotiations should only ever be viewed as a process.

Specialists highlight three vectors as being particularly important to the negotiation process.These are:

• the ability to defend one’s interests; • the ability to manage one’s emotions; and • the ability to manage the emotions of others.

Negotiations are, above all, a process. With this process in mind, we must identify both the type of negotiations we are taking part in and our opponent’s motives.

Types of and motives for negotiations:

• Negotiations with a view to extending existing agreements. Such negotiations are often held in the trade sphere to extend the validity of a contract, or to add certain clarifications or changes to a new contract to reflect the current state of affairs. Such negotiations are also not uncommon when extending labour contracts. • Negotiations with a view to normalising relations. These presume a transition from a conflict situation to a different relationship between the parties (neutrality or co-operation). • Negotiations with a view to finalising redistribution agreements. These negotiations are when one party takes an aggressive position and demands changes to agreements that are to their advantage, at a cost to other parties. Such negotiations take place when haggling over a price or other material resources – an increase or decrease in rent, for example. • Negotiations with a view to reaching a new agreement. These are intended to establish a new relationship and new obligations between parties. Negotiations with a new partner, for example. • Negotiations with a view to gathering information. Indirect results may not be reflected in agreements, and in some cases the negotiations may not even lead to an agreement at all. Examples of this type of negotiation include talks to establish contact, identify partners’ points of view or influence public opinion. • Negotiations with a view to misleading an opponent. These are, quite simply, an imitation of the negotiation process. Opponents often enter the negotiation process and deliberately draw it out, safe in the knowledge that time is on their side. In this type of negotiation, every one of your proposals will be met with a ‘maybe’, a ‘we’ll need to consult on this’ or similar. • Provocation. Negotiations with a view to showing the other party’s inability to negotiate.

It is very important to identify your opponent’s primary motive in the early stages of the negotiation process, and to use this knowledge when deciding on your next steps.

The five postulates of the Kremlin school of negotiation Postulate 1: keep quiet and listen attentively to what your opponent says Keep quiet and listen. What’s so tough – so brutal – about this, you ask? At first glance, nothing. Nothing at all. But let’s take a closer look. What happens when your opponent stays quiet and listens to you? You talk. When people listen to us – especially if they are attentive, taking note of what we say – we expose ourselves. To keep quiet and listen is to play human flaws to your advantage. People are talkative. We toss ‘breadcrumbs’, unwittingly giving away unnecessary information, answering questions no one asked. Anyone who works in procurement will have mastered this ploy and will already know just how effective it is.

Often all it takes is for us to listen for our opponents to start dishing everything up to us on a silver platter. But when we drop these information ‘breadcrumbs’, offering up insights we haven’t even been asked for, we make our opponent’s task much easier and complicate things for ourselves. When we listen, we win our opponent’s favour. We make it clear that we are interested in what they have to say. And when a person sees their opponent show a genuine interest in what they have to say, it is only natural for them to start to reveal more, because they want to be as useful as they can. After all, it’s so rare for anyone to actually listen to us nowadays!

Postulate 2: ask questions The negotiator listens. Then they ask questions. In doing so, they can steer the conversation as their own interests dictate. Negotiators who find themselves listened to and asked questions will often take the bait and talk more; offer more. This is a key moment in any negotiation. It is at this moment that the opponents are assigned their first roles. We will go into roles in more detail later, but for the time being I would just like to highlight a few key points. At this early stage of negotiation, it is through tactics like these that the first negotiation roles are assigned: namely, those of ‘host’ and ‘guest’. The ‘host’ is the one who asks the questions; the ‘guest’ is the one who answers them. The ‘host’ enquires; the ‘guest’ offers. And with this, that most well-known pair of roles begins to take root: you offer me something, and I’ll choose if I want it. I am the ‘host’. When you entertain a guest in your home, you get to ask the questions. But remember: in negotiations, the host isn’t the party doing the hosting in a geographical sense, but the person asking the questions. The host is the one who controls the agenda, even if their opponent believes the opposite is true. The opponent thinks that because they are doing all the talking, they must be running the show. They equate talking with leading. Not so. The person controlling the conversation is the one asking the questions; the one listening.

Negotiations in an official’s office: Visitor (V): We would like to ask you to free up some land for us to construct a supermarket. Official (O): What do you plan to sell? V: Consumer goods. These are important items for residents, and we have experience in this retail segment. O: Tell me more. V: Well, we have had branches operating in many Russian regions since 2000, and we have a wealth of experience and positive reviews. O: And in this region? V: None as yet. O: Then come back to me when you do.

From the very first second, the official takes on the role of ‘host’, asking their ‘guest’ a variety of questions before coming to a decision – the one that is most advantageous to them. In my experience, this is often a point of confusion for many retailers. ‘Where did I go wrong?’ they will ask. ‘I gave them all the information they wanted and politely answered their questions, but in the end they went with someone else.’ To which I answer: when we answer questions, we become the ‘guest’; we give our opponent the role of ‘host’ and, in doing so, the right of refusal. And, having won that right, the buyer is certain to make the most of it. You must fight for the role of ‘host’. This is crucial. If you feel you’re being asked more questions than strictly necessary, know that with every question asked you are being drawn further from your goal. So you must break this chain and seize back the initiative through counter-questions. Let’s see how some well-placed counter-questions could have led to a very different outcome in the dialogue above.

V: We would like to ask you to free up some land for us to construct a supermarket O: What do you plan to sell? V: Consumer goods. These are important items for residents, and we have experience in this retail segment. O: Tell me more. V: Well, we have had branches operating in many Russian regions since 2000, and we have a wealth of experience and positive reviews. But tell me, do you think your residents would appreciate having a wide range of affordable goods within easy reach? O: That’s an interesting question . . . I think so, perhaps. V: I would be very grateful if you could take a look at our plans and give us your expert opinion. Would you prefer them by email, or on paper? O: I prefer paper documents.

Through their counter-questions, the visitor wrests back the role of ‘host’ and in so doing puts themselves in a better position to progress in negotiations.

After answering a question, always ask your opponent a counter-question.

Postulate 3: impose a scale of values or ‘depreciate’ Next, whoever is playing ‘host’ will start to introduce their own value system. This marks the next stage of negotiations. As soon as this scale of values has been introduced, the state of play changes completely. This is because the party in the role of ‘host’ can now raise up or pull down the ‘guest’ at will, based on their own values.

Anyone who has worked in sales will probably have experienced the following situation more than once. A buyer well-versed in negotiation methods takes a look at your proposal, tosses it to one side and asks: ‘So, what, you think you’re unique? You think I can’t get this anywhere else?’ As intended, these comments will start to make you feel that bit smaller. In another example, a boss says to his subordinate: ‘What, you think you’re a star or something? That you’re the only one who can do this?’ Turning points like these almost always lead to one thing only: the person being addressed instantly slides a step or two (read: falls headlong) down their own scale of values.

Maria is a driven young woman working in an in-house marketing and publicity team. She graduated from a top university and has five years’ experience at some major firms behind her. But whenever she speaks to her manager, a forty-five-year-old man who likes to throw his weight around, he always says things like: ‘Masha, dear, you probably don’t have the experience for such a complex assignment yet,’ or: ‘Your degree’s hardly going to cut it on an assignment like this.’ Maria, meanwhile, is running around like a headless chicken trying to prove herself to her manager.

Postulate 4: ‘roll out the red carpet’ Now you’re probably wondering why Maria simply does her manager’s bidding? Surely she knows a situation like this is unsustainable – how much should a person have to prove? That’s because after ‘depreciating’ Maria, her manager always rolls out the ‘red carpet’ for her. Now, I don’t mean a red carpet in the sense of a ceremonious greeting; view it as more of an appealing path to follow. Something along the lines of: ‘Fine, Masha, if you insist, I’m prepared to give you a shot at this while I consider it. Just make sure . . .’ When a ‘depreciation’ puts someone in a subordinate role, it is only natural for them to feel somewhat uncomfortable in that position – which means they will do anything they can to get out of it. This is when a tough professional negotiator – like Maria’s manager – will make use of the play we call ‘rolling out the red carpet’.

A person who feels backed up against a wall has two options: they can either make a desperate attempt at resistance, or simply do nothing and let themselves be crushed. Similarly, a negotiator who feels backed up against a wall can choose one of three courses of action: they can either attack, escape or play dead. Truth be told, none of these options lead to great results for either party. To make matters worse, what they do lead to is a sense of pressure or manipulation. This is where the play described above comes in handy. If you can show the person backed up against a wall a possible way out; if you can bring it out as an opportunity for ‘victory’ while saving face, then the outcome will change quite markedly. This is why it is always worth preparing two techniques prior to negotiations: one that will give you the upper hand, and another that will let your opponent lose while still saving face. Should the latter come to pass, when your opponent is backed up against a wall you need to know how to roll out the red carpet for them to walk down, wilfully choosing their own defeat. Only then will they be satisfied with the outcome of the negotiations.

The red carpet rule is the essence of the fourth postulate of the Kremlin school of negotiation: making the opponent an offer they can’t refuse. This play might sound something like this: ‘Well, fine, seeing as you’re here, if you can offer me a discount I’ll take a look at your proposal.’ In the majority of cases, your opponent will happily accept. So, to begin with we listened to our opponent carefully. Then we asked questions, steering the conversation towards our objectives. As we did this, the opponent gave us lots of unnecessary information, things we hadn’t even thought to ask. And then we smoothly and discreetly introduced our own scale of values and gave the opponent a sharp dip in importance. And now our opponent finds themselves in a role and position they would very much like to get out of. Now is the moment to roll out our red carpet, giving them the way out they’re so desperate for. Of course, our opponent will seize this opportunity with both hands: the position they have unexpectedly found themselves in is so unpleasant. Not to mention the fact that the terms of this ‘surprise escape’ do go some way towards achieving what they wanted. But only to some extent, and only at first glance. If statistics are to be believed, then this method gets results in roughly 80–90 per cent of cases. But is 90 per cent always enough? At times only 100 per cent rock-solid results will do. Which is why one more lever is brought into play, one that allows the user to crank their negotiation success rate up to 98 per cent. Postulate 5: put the opponent in the zone of uncertainty As a buyer I know from a major federal chain once put it: ‘No one has ever squeezed better terms out of a supplier than those the supplier squeezes out of themselves.’ So what does it mean to put someone in the zone of uncertainty? You say something like ‘I’m not sure how my management will react to your refusal,’ or ‘I don’t know if it’ll be possible to bring you into our distribution network.’ It’s hard to put in words what happens in a seller’s mind when they hear this. You see, the seller has already been picturing all of the upsides of this deal, and the knock-on effect it will have for their business. Faced with uncertainty, who wouldn’t start to ask, beg, even plead – whatever it takes to coax out another chance? Who wouldn’t promise their opponent all imaginable (and unimaginable) bonuses, agree to any number of concessions? Why does this happen? Fear gets a hold on us. Fear is a most powerful weapon. Fear can also be described as a state of over-motivation, of ‘need’. This is when a person feels compelled, for whatever reason, to conclude a deal, get the sale, get the documents signed. And this isn’t the preserve of business relationships. A sense of ‘need’ is not uncommon in interpersonal relationships – for example, when one partner feels they ‘need’ the other. All of this is a state of over-motivation. When a person can’t take a step back and soberly evaluate the current situation, their brain starts to see all manner of negative consequences. As a result, they latch onto any bones they are thrown. And who’s throwing these bones? The tough negotiator. You can find any number of examples of this in films depicting the events of the ‘hard nineties’ in Russia and other former Soviet states.

The zone of uncertainty is, nevertheless, a very powerful play, and using it can easily secure some movement in your direction from your opponent. Let’s imagine a manager is yet again asking his subordinate to stay late after work to finish a project. The subordinate is neither prepared nor willing to work in his free time. Now, at this point many managers would start to threaten the subordinate, barking out a list of orders and acting in a way they consider to be ‘tough’. In fact, this is exactly the sort of behaviour that will provoke further resistance and disloyalty in their colleague. This is when it’s time to remember the ‘zone of uncertainty’ play. All you need are a couple of phrases: ‘Fine, Ivan, if you don’t want to stay, don’t. I’m sure we’ll manage without you.’ With this, the manager puts those toughest of negotiators – fear and uncertainty – to work in their subordinate’s mind. And believe you me, those two certainly are persuasive. So now we have seen all five postulates of the Kremlin method. But this method also makes use of what is known as the ‘pendulum of emotions’. No living person’s emotions can be completely neutral. Our pendulum of emotions is always in a state of flux: even when we are calm, our pendulum will oscillate slightly. And the task of the negotiator using the Kremlin method is to swing the pendulum to its maximum amplitude, so as to more effectively influence our actions and dealings.

Let’s see what happens to our pendulum of emotions during each of these five postulates.

Postulates 1 and 2: the negotiator listens to us and asks us questions. This puts us in a pleasant, even happy frame of mind. The pendulum swings out towards the positive edge of its range. Postulate 3: we are ‘depreciated’. The pendulum swings in the opposite direction. After the fourth postulate, once the ‘red carpet’ has been rolled out, our pendulum moves back into the positive. That is where we want it to stay. If this isn’t enough to seal the deal, then one more step is added – postulate 5.

Never sacrifice your own interests to maintain a relationship. That is no marriage of equals. Strategically, you stand to lose both the relationship and your negotiation benefit. Your opponents are most likely simply banking on your desire to ‘do the right thing’.

While physical combat is about the positioning of bodies in space (the seizure of territory, objects, etc.), negotiation actually boils down to a fight for social roles (boss/subordinate, vendor/buyer, teacher/student, decision-maker/implementer, etc.). As negotiators, it is crucial that we understand who holds what role. ‘Host’ and ‘guest’ are the most important roles that can be assigned in negotiation. The movement towards these roles begins as soon as the first questions are asked and the first answers given. It is after these roles are established that a value system is introduced, and one party is put into an undesirable role that they then want to shift. This role can indeed be shifted, but only by a) knowing how to fight for a social role, or b) engaging in combat (dismissing an objectionable dealer, say, getting into a scuffle or even grabbing an object or money). There are no other options. So what is a role? Roles are an extremely powerful thing. If a negotiator knows how to recognise the roles at play, then they can predict others’ behaviour and use that knowledge to adjust their own – usually with great success. The thing is, if we put a person into one role or another, then sooner or later they will start to move exactly as that role dictates.

It is hard to overstate the importance of roles. If, in negotiations, we are viewed as one in a long line of others, or if we fall into the role of ‘dependent’, we will immediately start looking for a way out – for example, by suggesting tantalising terms or making concessions. All because we want out of that role. This is exactly why we need to learn how to negotiate. Returning to our warfare analogy, we can differentiate between two stages of negotiations: manoeuvring and combat. This means that in battle, ‘strength of the moral forces’ – i.e. our strength of spirit – is key. Everything else is secondary: what matters is having the willpower to see you through. When it comes to defending our interests – or playing the lion – our confidence in our own strength will naturally be of great importance. We must have enough strength of spirit to fight for our interests. So when does combat begin? It begins when both sides have an equal understanding of what they are fighting for, and what is at stake.

Combat is the stage of negotiations at which parties fight for a benefit. Both sides clearly understand what having the benefit would mean to them and to the other side. The benefit could be material – a salary, a price, commercial terms, etc. – or it could be completely unrelated to material values: a trip to the cinema, perhaps, or a visit to your mother-in-law at the weekend.

Before entering negotiations, you need to make a thorough forecast for success. It is only ever possible to enter negotiations with all guns blazing – i.e. revealing your position and benefit – if you are certain what the outcome of combat will be, if your forecast is positive and if you have all three components of the negotiation process in hand. In any other situation, you need to do some manoeuvring. Now, manoeuvring shouldn’t be mistaken for a refusal to negotiate. Manoeuvres are simply the process of making preparations, clarifying information, finding reinforcements and more.

When evaluating possible negotiation outcomes, we must look at the situation not from our own perspective but from that of our opponent. What matters is not how we approach our opponent, but how they view us.

This is how I recommend making a forecast: Draw up a simple matrix, which I’m going to call the ‘forecast matrix’. This matrix should have two vectors: ‘importance’ and ‘irreplaceability’. These two vectors will serve as a measurable indicator of how our opponent views us. Prior to negotiations, consider – on a scale of zero to ten – how much your opponent needs you and your goods or services (or how much they need you as a worker/employer, etc.). This will be your rating on the ‘importance’ vector. You then need to evaluate – once again, on a scale of zero to ten – how hard it would be for your opponent to find a replacement. This will be your rating on the ‘irreplaceability’ vector. Depending on your ratings, you will fall into one of four categories. This category is how your opponent views you, and you should plan your next steps on this basis.

First, let’s familiarise ourselves with each of these four categories. Supermarket Your opponent isn’t interested in you, and you are easily replaced. When a person sees their opponent as one of many items on a supermarket shelf – an item they weren’t even looking for in the first place – they will have little interest in the products or services on offer. And, naturally, if you are to engage in combat with that person, i.e. immediately reveal the benefit you seek, there is a high chance that you will very soon be leaving with nothing. What is the point even haggling with you when you are both easily interchangeable (just look at all of those products on the shelf!) and unimportant? For a forecast like this, I would categorically advise against opening with a fight for your benefit. Here, manoeuvring is key. Focus on strengthening your position. If you’ve fallen into the ‘supermarket’ category, then to all intents and purposes you are simply one of many identical products on the shelf; your opponent might not notice you, or they might not even stop to look at the shelf at all. If an employee wants to ask for a raise, then before going to the manager, it’s worth them thinking about what category they fall into in their employer’s eyes. If they fall into the ‘supermarket’ category, then what will negotiations actually achieve? Now, I’m not saying that you should ever refuse to negotiate – certainly not. I’m simply saying that what you need is a manoeuvre, one that will either ‘inflate’ your significance (on the ‘importance’ vector), or highlight just how unique you are (on the ‘irreplaceability’ vector). Only after that should you begin to fight for the benefit.

Opportunity You are pretty unique, but as it stands your opponent has little interest in you. What should you do? Enter combat, or manoeuvre?

This category demands an initial manoeuvre. First you need to create value for your potential clients, then you can outline your benefit. Value is something your opponent is willing to pay you for.

Lever By its very name, this category implies there may be pressure on you. If there is interest in what you have to offer but you face a lot of competition, then I recommend boldly stepping into negotiations and revealing your benefit. ‘What, straight into combat, without any manoeuvring?’ you might ask. This I can understand: to all appearances, this category hardly differs from ‘opportunity’. Only the vector has changed: here, rather than ‘irreplaceability’, the high rating is for ‘importance’. However, the two do differ in quite marked ways. While prior preparation for negotiations is still essential, in this category there is some room for bargaining off the bat. Naturally, your opponent will try to put pressure on you by emphasising that there are other options available to them, they have companies queueing up to work with them and the like. But if you prepare your negotiations and arm yourself well, then success awaits. In this category, you have all three components of success in your hands.

Once again, I would like to note that combat is not a ‘tough’ position: it is simply the stage of negotiations that begins when both parties understand the benefit the other side seeks. The negotiations themselves can be as tough or as gentle as you want: that is down to you and your opponent. If you’re a valued employee who meets targets and whom the company has an interest in retaining, you can boldly ask for a raise. Your employer will negotiate with you, whether they have a potential replacement for you or not. This is in contrast to the previous two categories, where there was no scope for bargaining.

Partner There is interest in you, and you are hard to replace. Now, in this category it might appear that success is in the bag, but you can’t relax just yet. Yes, go into combat; yes, go out there with all guns blazing to declare your benefit. But be careful: your opponent won’t be dozing. For purchasing agents, for example, suppliers who fall into this category are a big danger. Managers of ‘stars’ face this headache all the time. This is because once we reach the top right-hand corner of the matrix, we often start behaving not as a partner but as a counter-lever. We lean in to our position, throw our weight around more. You can be certain that the other party – be they a purchasing agent or an employer – will always be on the lookout for a replacement. So you need to be aware that even if you’ve won the battle, you can still lose the war. Don’t forget the relationship aspect of negotiations; here it’s more important than ever. And so we can see that, even in this category, it is practically impossible to get by without some form of manoeuvring. Yes, go into combat; yes, reveal your benefit, but in later negotiations you will need to manoeuvre to encourage trust in you. And for this, you need to foster the three most important components of trusting relationships. They are:

  1. Attentiveness to the opponent and their values.
  2. An ability to listen.
  3. Professionalism.

If you fall into the ‘supermarket’ or ‘opportunity’ category, forget combat for a while and focus on manoeuvres. Combat (bargaining) is possible only when your opponent feels you are important.

Before beginning negotiations, make sure you possess the three most important negotiation components: strength, means and resources.

Make a forecast using the forecast matrix, and only then decide whether to make a manoeuvre (arm yourself and improve your position) or to head straight into combat.

In combat, the most important thing to rely on is your strength of spirit. Quite simply, whoever’s is greater will win. Let’s remind ourselves of von Clausewitz’s much-cited definition of fighting: ‘Fighting is a trial of strength of the moral and physical forces by means of the latter.’ In negotiation, ‘fighting’ is the stage at which we fight for gains. This stage only comes into play when certain conditions are present:

  1. There is a clash of interests.
  2. Both sides clearly understand what benefit they seek as well as that of the opposing party.
  3. Both sides want to gain said benefit.

This is precisely where strength of will can play a decisive role. Why? Because this is where the moral forces of the two sides go head to head. Whoever’s is greater will win. You must be ready for this. In other words, you must constantly train and hone your willpower. As Napoleon once said, ‘The moral is to the physical as three is to one.’ Let’s take a look at the four behaviour models of people in combat – how people behave when fighting for their benefit and defending their interests. Before getting into this, it should be noted that these behaviour models must be viewed along two vectors. The first vector is ‘motivation’ (to achieve a result). This is equal parts self-confidence and belief in one’s cause. The second is ‘courteousness’. Confidence is an important factor in combat. The outcome often boils down to which of the negotiators is more motivated. As for courteousness, it is worth taking a closer look at what this means in this context. Nowadays, many associate the word ‘courtesy’ with ‘compliance’. This is wrong. Courteousness means treating people properly, behaving appropriately, using socially acceptable language and other similar concepts – none of which is synonymous with compliance. So these are our two vectors – confidence (results-oriented motivation) and courteousness. It is through these two criteria that we will explore the four possible behaviour models adopted when defending one’s interests.

The teenager This behaviour model is normally presented by people who lack confidence (i.e. have little motivation) and are discourteous to boot. Aggressive attacks on weaker parties are generally typical of this model. ‘Teenagers’ are quick to make things personal, and often speak very informally, using this as a means of projecting confidence in themselves and the rest of the world. However, this aggressive behaviour is in fact a mask for their own insecurity. Sound like a teenager to you?

If you encounter a ‘teenager’, it is important to show them that you are emotionally stronger than they are. When they sense your strength, they will be forced to change their negotiation strategy and stop their provocations. One way of demonstrating your strength is to look your opponent straight in the eye and pause for a few seconds. Your response needs to be firm and confident, so that your opponent understands that the power is on your side. Under no circumstances whatsoever should you mimic their behaviour. Meeting boorishness with boorishness will simply turn you into a ‘teenager’ too: your motivation will drop, and the only thing to be gained from that discussion will be you letting off steam.

If you cross paths with a ‘teenager’, make sure you keep your aim at the front of your mind. People in this state will often reveal their inner Porthos, and simply fight for the sake of fighting. They have no motivation to achieve anything in these negotiations, no benefit in their sights. So you should remember the words of Winston Churchill: ‘You will never reach your destination if you stop and throw stones at every dog that barks.’

Don’t try to re-educate people or moralise with them. You’ll either lose sight of your benefit, or turn into a ‘teenager’ yourself. There is, however, another way of dealing with a ‘teenager’: find a third party who is better able to negotiate and who has a vested interest in the result.

If you encounter ‘teenage’ behaviour, under no circumstances should you fight fire with fire. Always keep your goal in mind, and let the circumstances guide you:

  1. Make a one-time show of strength.
  2. Ignore their behaviour and stand your ground.
  3. Check if you would be better off speaking to someone else.
  4. The ‘red carpet’ and ‘zone of uncertainty’ can also be used to good effect here.

The mouse These are people who value courteousness, but who lack confidence (low results-oriented motivation). This behaviour model is the least successful when it comes to fighting for the goal. Why? Because people who fall back on this model tend to concede everything to everyone. But that’s not all – not only do they make unnecessary concessions, they make excuses for doing so: ‘I’m a nice person – it’s just so easy to hurt me!’ When does a negotiator turn into a ‘mouse’? When they lack confidence in their cause; when they are unsure of their own position. If this person values courteousness they will become a ‘mouse’; if not, ‘teenagerhood’ awaits. I am often asked questions like: ‘How can I sell something I don’t completely believe in?’ or ‘How can I change a supplier’s terms if I find the new ones unfair?’ I get thousands of questions like these. The answer is simple: sell it to yourself first. Find the strength of your position. Regardless of what the situation is, it is crucial to convince yourself first, and only then go into negotiations.

Under no circumstances should you enter negotiations if you don’t truly believe in your cause. When a negotiator doesn’t believe in the strength of their own position, they are doomed to failure.

Here, the golden rule is this: tempting though it may be, don’t try to take everything from them. Having promised you the world, chances are that the ‘mouse’ will hide away and no longer negotiate with you. Which means you’re still left without your goal.

The tank This is a very common behaviour model, and it’s pretty self-explanatory: the ‘tank’ is a confident person, but not a courteous one. Our society often approves of this behaviour, and as a result tank-ish behaviour is precisely what many strive for. So what sort of behaviour are we talking about? Well, a ‘tank’ is typically guided by their interests and their interests alone. Others’ interests mean absolutely nothing. But there’s no hiding it, ‘tanks’ do achieve great success in life, and negotiation, of course, is no exception. So it should come as no surprise that this behaviour model is often used in negotiation. More than that, it’s often very successful. It doesn’t even stand comparison to the ‘mouse’: the latter comes out far too unfavourably, and the success of ‘tank’-style negotiators is exaggerated even more in contrast. However, there is one serious downside to this model: it is angled towards instant results, not on aligning strategic relationships.

What can you do when you meet a ‘tank’? An experienced negotiator will say: even a ‘tank’ gets their comeuppance every now and then. There are three strategies for dealing with a negotiator who has adopted this apparently fail-safe behaviour model.

  1. The ‘two dogs’ strategy. You have to prove that you’re stronger.
  2. Don’t encourage your opponent’s behaviour. Meet toughness with softness and in doing so disorient them.
  3. Use a burst of ‘breakthrough force’ at the right moment. If you’re being pulled into a whirlpool, don’t flounder and tire yourself out: gather strength, and then give a strong burst of kicking.

When choosing your strategy, it is essential to first evaluate which of you is the stronger party. Here it is very important to make a sober evaluation of your strengths and potential and an adequate forecast of the outcome of the fight. If you are stronger, then it is entirely possible that if you enter combat using the ‘two dogs’ strategy, you will come out on top.

Two dogs’ strategy: one of the parties growled, and the other party growled back. If you have analysed the situation and your options and come to the conclusion that this strategy is high-risk, then it’s best to abandon it. If you use it in such a situation, not only do you stand to lose your benefit, you will also gain the reputation of being the losing side if you do. If in an encounter with a ‘tank’ you feel like the weaker side, then in no way should you encourage their behaviour by responding to rudeness with rudeness. It is better to respond to attacks with softness, which will disorient them, and to seek out their weak spots (arguments, positions, etc.). This isn’t so hard to do. The key is to remember that ‘tanks’ deliberately use their bluntness and pressure to pull you into an emotional mode of negotiation. There’s a reason why ‘emotional’ is italicised here. Specialists in negotiation processes distinguish between two modes of negotiation: the emotional and the rational. Essentially all negotiations begin in a rational mode. However, far from all of them progress in the same manner, much less conclude in it. Transitioning into an emotional mode is the aim of the provocateur, which is usually what ‘tanks’ happen to be. The provocateur deliberately draws their opponent onto an emotional level, making them feel undesirable emotions that will lead to irrational decisions. More often than not, once a negotiator has been drawn onto the path their ‘tank’ opponent has chosen for them, they will try to concede something early on to soften their opponent’s apparently negative mood, ‘bribing’ him, earning some favour. This is a big mistake. Once the ‘tank’ gets an inkling that their opponent is prepared to make concessions, they will take even more drastic action.

Two strategies for negotiating with ‘tanks’: both the ‘two dogs’ and ‘softness against toughness’ are perfectly reasonable courses of action, in certain circumstances. Both offer clear plusses as well as minuses. The third strategy – ‘breakthrough force’ – is the most effective, but it takes some effort. If in negotiations you are completely unarmed and find yourself against an opponent who is armed to the teeth, then negotiations aren’t going to bring you anything good. The primary task of the negotiator is to master the art of arming oneself (finding strength) during the negotiating process. And to use that strength (or the opponent) at the right moment, and in their own interests.

It’s also important to remember that ‘tanks’ don’t only provoke through their words. Their actions and gestures are also very powerful weapons for immersing their victims in emotion.

If you come up against a ‘tank’, it is very important to make a forecast of the outcome of combat. If you are stronger, or at least comparable in strength, then the ‘two dogs’ strategy is appropriate. In all other situations it is much more advantageous to hold off on encouraging your opponent’s manner. Instead, wait and gather the negotiation resources you need for a forceful ‘kick’.

Experience shows that in negotiation, the best tactical and strategic results are achieved by those who skilfully combine concern for their opponent with confidence when defending their own interests. People who demonstrate this behaviour model will typically keep their own interests in mind, without infringing upon those of others. They demonstrate both confidence and courtesy. They know how to assert their opinion, but also how to show concern for their opponent. They manage to withstand pressure, yet know how to exert it when needed. A ‘leader’ listens to and understands their opponent, assesses situations well and steers the negotiation process. They can be either soft or tough, as the situation requires. They act in their own interests, but don’t forget those of their opponent. They know how to create forecasts and make decisions that won’t infringe upon their opponent’s interests. A ‘leader’ knows how to influence their opponent’s behaviour. Soft to touch but firm in substance, they are like a fist in a kidskin glove. So why the name ‘leader’? Any ‘leader’ should inspire people to follow them, and they should also look after their followers. It is much the same here: the motto of such negotiators would be something like: ‘Assert your interests without infringing upon those of others’, as opposed to the ‘tank’, who will impose their own interests without sparing so much as a thought for anyone else. ‘Leaders’ tend to reach their goals faster and at less cost, for a few reasons. One: they better see and understand their own interests, and they are able to assess whether they are in a position to fight, and what for. Two: they are able to see the wider situation and approach it through their opponent’s eyes, making their worldview more rounded. Three: a ‘leader’ doesn’t prove, he reasons, using only strong arguments to boot. A ‘leader’ always approaches their opposite number in negotiations with respect. They are prepared to listen and seek out alternative solutions, but at the same time they are not prepared to lose sight of their own interests just to please the other side.

If you are sitting opposite a ‘leader’, then steer clear of emotional games, manipulation and pressure. A ‘leader’ will make easy work of turning your energy back on you. You will have to come to an agreement in a completely rational mode.

Each of our behaviour models: The ‘teenager’ • Rarely reaches agreements. • Doesn’t gain results. • Sours relationships. The ‘mouse’ • Agreements may be reached, but calling them ‘reasonable’ is a bit of a stretch. • Results leave much to be desired. • Concern for relationships and others’ interests are, however, their forte. The ‘tank’ • Reaches agreements by any means necessary. At times their only goal in battle is to reach an agreement on their own terms, maintaining their dominant position. Engages in combat for power. • Results often suffer because the ‘tank’ disregards the relationship and forgets that, at times, it will be more advantageous for the other party to simply stop doing business with them than to honour the agreements they have forced through. • Other people and interests hardly feature in their mind. The ‘leader’ • Clearly sees their goal, remembers their asset and, where possible, finds a way to co-operate with opponents. • Dealings progress. • Relationships develop.

Maximum results are achieved by negotiators who adopt the ‘leader’ model when fighting for the benefit. For this, it is important to have a strong level of results-oriented motivation and to act in a courteous way – as the situation dictates.

Negotiation specialists single out four such regulators. Regulator 1: people During negotiations, we often make value judgements about people or events that concern them. Or even worse: we make judgements about a person’s personal qualities. As soon as negotiations become personal, the process becomes more heated. In a negotiation, it’s one thing to say, ‘The figures you’re showing me don’t really add up’, and another thing entirely to say, ‘How incompetent do you have to be to come up with figures like this?’ In the former case, we are in a rational frame of mind: we can discuss the figures our opponent has given us in more detail. In the latter, we launch straight into a heated fight, one we provoke because we let our emotions come into play. We have cast our judgement, and are thereby no longer capable of rational thinking. Our later actions will be governed by our emotions.

You have to learn to speak the language of facts, especially in negotiations – even more so if you are dealing with a complicated opponent. As soon as you start to get personal or give your own personal opinions, the fight will intensify. It is crucial to separate the person from the issue being discussed. This is the first regulator: if you don’t want a fight to heat up, don’t get personal. Instead, set out the facts and try to make fewer value judgements. Separating the individual from the issue at stake is key. If we lump everything together, our negotiations will move from a rational to an emotional mode, and as a result things will get personal.

Regulator 2: positions and ambitions

Ambitions are often what prevent negotiators from examining the heart of the issue and coming to an agreement. Such tough, unflinching positions and ambitions are precisely what cause opponents to draw one another into a nonsensical fight.

Hiding behind a tough and inflexible position, we often lose sight of our benefit and simply fight for the position we hold, setting ourselves up for failure.

On the face of it, our positions often mean a lot more to us than our goal does. Especially when in the position of a ‘tank’. When in this role, we forget all about our benefit, instead devoting our attention to asserting our own ambitions. And when this happens, the negotiator is simply fighting for power, an appearance of strength and importance. The appearance of success is, in reality, simply a value judgement given by a collective. And the only thing these sorts of ambitions do is interfere. Whereas real success – ambition in the good sense of the word – is a product of personal effectiveness.

Conflicts often arise in negotiations because people mistake aims for means. When negotiators argue from a place of ambition, they often restrict themselves by the framework of these very ambitions. The more you try to convince your opponent of the inflexibility of your initial position and the firmness of your convictions, the more you will start to believe them yourself. Once again, let’s return to our key point. Whatever negotiation technique you have chosen, it should meet these three criteria:

  1. Leads to a reasonable agreement.
  2. Is effective in getting results.
  3. Improves (or at the very least doesn’t worsen) relations between the parties.

Ambitions can often turn the decision-making process into a true battle. This is what happens when one side declares: ‘You’ll get the contract, but only on my terms.’ In other words: ‘I’ll win, but you’ll get the honour of being good.’ Such negotiations usually lead only to resentment, hurt and anger. And this resentment can last a lifetime. Negotiations often spill over into a fight for positions or ambitions because parties enter the negotiation process without properly outlining a range of possible solutions. If we only have one possible solution in mind when entering negotiations, we are setting ourselves up for tough negotiations from the get-go.

Regulator 3: having a range of options A participant in a workshop once came up to me after losing yet another ‘duel’ and asked: ‘What’s going on – why is my negotiation opponent not listening to me? I’m making him such a great offer, but he won’t agree, and whenever I try to prove how good it is he just won’t listen.’ This boils down to the fact that, when preparing for negotiations, both opponents only developed one single option, deciding that it would also work for the other side. And what, do you think, is the likelihood that the two will coincide? In my experience, not great. When preparing for negotiations, think through every possible option that could work for you. Several of them. And they all have to be grounded. Options from the ‘I want’ side of things will, once again, draw you into a battle for ambitions and lead to you both digging your heels in. When doing this, particular attention should be given to drawing up a polygon of interests.

If the negotiator has a narrow perspective that sees only one possible option and one single interest then negotiations will become heated, often causing Newton’s law of ‘equal and opposite forces’ to spring into action. When this happens, negotiators will dismiss even interesting or potentially profitable ideas for no ostensible reason. Often people mistake having a range of options for a willingness to make concessions. In reality, however, the opposite is true: when you have options at hand, there is no need to reveal them to your opponent immediately; all you need to do is listen, draw conclusions and stow them away in your range of options. And should you come to put another option forward to the opponent, then you can pause on it, or at least make an attempt at putting it to paper before moving on to the next. It is very important to learn how to get to the heart of a problem, rather than attempting to solve it through banal, often irrelevant, bargaining for ambitions. If it is at all possible to find your benefit and reach a decision, then that is worth pursuing. And if not, then you should insist on a solution that you can ground in fact. Try to bear the Tibetan adage in mind: ‘He who proves isn’t right. He who is right has no need to prove.’

Regulator 4: a fight of the tenses

It is possible to either intensify or calm the emotions around a negotiating table simply by shifting the focus of the fight forwards or backwards in time. For example, if we are constantly dwelling on the past, then negotiations become pointless: the prospect of reaching an agreement is, in practical terms, unrealistic.

We cannot change the past. Any attempt to shift our perspective backwards in time in order to convince ourselves not to act in a certain way is pointless. We should know our past, accept it and build on it. Fighting to change it is pointless and non-constructive.

‘A year ago you supplied us with defective goods, I don’t want to see you.’

An opponent may use a phrase like this as a means of retaliation. It is very important not to dwell on this, but to bring the conversation back to the present or, even better, the future. People don’t enjoy talking about the less agreeable moments of their past; they far prefer discussing their pleasant futures and how you can help them to get there.

‘I am truly sorry for what happened, but our quality control system is now set up to eliminate such errors, and we are prepared to offer you an extended warranty.’

As soon as you feel that your opponent is drawing you into a fight for the past, try not to be drawn – it is not constructive and, ultimately, it’s pointless. The past cannot be changed. Squabbling over it, however, does have the potential to sour the present.

‘You didn’t deliver on your promises.’ ‘Well, you didn’t transfer the entire sum on time.’ ‘If you’d at least started the work, I’d have transferred the advance.’ ‘And how are we supposed to work without money?’

Does an agreement between these parties seem likely to you? In this instance, you should get to grips with what caused the dissatisfaction and then move on. If a person is constantly battling over past ground, it means they are still experiencing feelings of guilt, anger or blame. Wound up by their memories and a desire to change past events, they air their grievances with anyone who will listen. There is no point in this person negotiating; it will only end in conflict. However, when in capable hands, a fight for the present is a valuable regulator. It is important to learn how to fight for the present, because it is indispensable if we are to develop an adequate view of what is going on around us. This is, admittedly, a tough stage of combat: a person who is fighting for the present is effectively in a state of war with the world around them. But you will get clear, positive results earlier on: either you get what you want, or, failing that, you gain a better understanding of your opponent’s actions and intentions.

The future is very important to people. In order to soften negotiations, you can (and sometimes need to) shift your fight into the future. I’m talking about things like not splitting pennies now, but discussing the technology you will use to distribute future earnings. Marriage contracts, a founders’ agreement setting out how partners’ expenses will be managed – these are all great examples of an ability to engage in a fight for the future. The fight may take place in the present, but it has its sights on making it easier to resolve complex issues in the future. However, if we let ourselves get carried away by the future, we can turn into someone who idealises their goals and lives only by their plans, expectations, hopes and fears.

It is very important to be competent in issues of tense. Focus on the present; don’t fear it. Draw on past experiences, but don’t let them become the object of your fight. Use the future to enrich your present. In negotiations, it is important to recognise that memory and expectation are acts of the present. The past and the future are the background to the present. The present must be our focus.

Have you ever given much thought to what your negotiation budget really is? Many would say that the budget is, above all, the money spent on negotiating. In that sense, it can be viewed as a sort of benefit. But it is worth looking at this concept from a slightly different angle.

While the negotiation budget will of course depend on the value of the contract in question and other related concerns, it is also largely dependent on these four parameters:

• Time: the time we spend on the negotiations themselves. • Energy: the energy we put into preparing and holding these negotiations. • Money: the cost not of the contract, but of the ongoing negotiations. • Emotion: the emotional toll of the negotiations.

Experienced negotiators know how to use time to their advantage. For example, in some situations an opponent might deliberately start to draw out their responses. You won’t get a better indicator of something like this happening than the words: ‘You know, this isn’t formulated very precisely . . . I’ll need to think this through and discuss it with my colleagues . . . When can I call you back? How about in a week?’ This negotiator is buying time. Why? Because they are well aware of what this means to your negotiation budget. So, from their perspective, in order to put pressure on your negotiation budget, they need to increase this particular item of expenditure. That is to say, to increase the amount of time spent on the process itself.

It’s obvious that we put a lot of energy into negotiations – no one needs proof of that. But what is this energy, and where does it go? Into negotiation preparations, the negotiation process itself, travel and more. Of course, negotiations demand energy regardless, but it’s a different matter entirely if you’re the one doing the travelling, particularly if you have to travel to another city or region. Picture yourself travelling from Moscow to Vladivostok, a distance of about 6,500km. Can you imagine how draining flights, hotel stays, travel around town while pondering your situation are? These are all aspects of energy. Energy can even be crucial in the negotiation process itself.

I once flew to Murmansk for negotiations. It was winter, in the depths of polar night. I’m not even going to go into how draining it is for a Muscovite to be up in the Arctic Circle in constant darkness. Even before setting out for Murmansk, my team and I had put a lot of energy into just setting up this meeting, which had not been a quick process. Anyway, so there I was, having flown in to see them, and what do they tell me: ‘You know, we aren’t in a position to negotiate with you right now.’

In this example, it’s clear that our negotiation budget took a blow that day. Note also how my opponent acted on two components at once: time and energy. In negotiations, energy is the more valuable. Because it’s one thing to spend time sitting comfortably in our office reading books, speaking on the phone, holding timetabled meetings or simply waiting for the appointed date. And quite another to have to travel somewhere for one single purpose.

There’s no escaping it: the goal of any organisation is profit. And when we spend money on negotiations (especially if we spend more than expected), the budget of any activity will have to go up. Let’s define the concept of money in the negotiation process. A lot falls within this category: the money we spend on communication (phone bills, travel to meet a client), gifts, marketing materials, shipping and forwarding, not to mention remuneration for the work of everyone involved. In short, it is all the expenses incurred for and during the negotiation process. At times this financial component of the negotiation budget can simply skyrocket – when flying back and forth from Moscow to Vladivostok, say, or organising some sort of congress to prove the advantageousness of a proposal – or even simply when multiple parties are involved in the project who need to come together for talks.

The final component of the negotiation budget is emotion. And, as you have probably guessed, it is also the most valuable. Why? Because when emotions are stirred during the negotiation process, a person can no longer reason logically; they are unable to add up the costs, evaluate a benefit or join up the dots. How often have you heard remarks like ‘But I can’t give up now – I’ve put so much into this!’ in negotiations? If you have, it means it’s likely that the negotiations in question have already gone over budget, and the emotional component in particular is sweeping it off the scale.

tend to happen once the negotiation budget has already reached its maximum: when that party can go no further; when the process has completely worn them down. Most of the time, this specifically relates to that party’s emotional state. So why is it that they start to make concessions, you ask? To get out of the negotiations faster.

Concessions are due to weakness. If we apply von Clausewitz’s definition of fighting as ‘a trial of strength of the moral and physical forces by means of the latter’ to this situation, it becomes clear that concessions happen through a lack of moral force or strength of will. A person without this strength will be unable to fight for their benefit, instead moving away from their own interests to partly – or wholly – assimilate their opponent’s terms. This happens once their negotiation budget has already reached its maximum. In cases like these, you would never say that the two sides reached a compromise. One classic definition of compromise is: a negotiation process through which parties are able to achieve their interests by making mutual concessions. But this definition in and of itself encourages concessions. Here, the word ‘concession’ has no negative implications, but it’s clear that concessions are a product of weakness. As it turns out, the classic definition of compromise aims to weaken your negotiating position. Personally, I modify this definition slightly, replacing the words ‘mutual concessions’ with ‘movements towards the other party’. So for me, a compromise is a negotiation process through which parties are able to achieve their interests by making movements towards the other party.

A compromise differs from a concession in that a compromise is a conscious decision. You can only make a conscious decision if you still have enough reserves of time, energy and money in your negotiation budget and your emotions are under control. Although your negotiation budget is currently high, you feel that you can continue to fight and that as a result you may get more out of these negotiations. However, you should remember that the final benefit will either be smaller or equal to the additional budget that you will spend on pursuing that fight. When you make an informed decision like this, it is a compromise. Many authors suggest that compromise is a mathematical value that can be calculated. My view is that it is a psychological aspect of the negotiation process. If a party is satisfied with what has been achieved in the negotiation process and is prepared to implement the terms of the agreement, it can be considered a compromise. If, however, these terms cause discomfort or regret, they should instead be viewed as a concession.

Always keep tabs on the size of your negotiation budget. Before going into negotiations, it is important to replenish your reserves of time, money and energy. Think about what (and where) these reserves are should you need them.

Compromise is possible only during combat (a fight for the benefit) when you understand what benefit your opponent seeks and what they are fighting for. Otherwise your attempt will make your opponent want to get even more from you.

Although compromise is an emotional state, it should be achieved with the help of mathematics. The magic polygon of interests can play a key role in reaching compromises.

We have already seen that when parties negotiate with one sole interest in mind, negotiations will turn not only tough but heated. There won’t be enough resources to go around, and this deficit will push parties into heated scuffles. It will only be possible to calm the emotions and reach agreements if both sides can see several interests in front of them. These interests are what make up the faces of our ‘magical’ shape. There are five steps to building a polygon of interests.

Step 1: find your interests Think long and hard about what your interests might be when resolving a particular situation. These interests will form the faces of the polygon. There will always be one key interest that you see immediately, but this will always be accompanied by other interests, however insignificant and unimportant they may at first appear. A person applying for a job will normally pay a lot of attention to the salary. Besides this, however, the employment benefits, incentives, amount and regularity of annual leave, flexibility in working hours, team spirit, work tasks, responsibilities, experience and knowledge gained, study opportunities and more will all need to be taken into consideration. Similarly, when a supplier wants to start working with a chain, they will have to consider not only the price and payment terms, but also the possibility of reaching the end consumer, promotional opportunities, heightened brand profile and a stronger reputation. Note in both cases how many faces (interests) there are, far from all of which are material. The more faces your polygon has, the more flexible your position will be and the more likely that you will be able to reach an agreement with your opponent. Now, it is very important to visualise your interests – material and non-material – by placing them on the faces of the polygon itself. You should have at least three faces, otherwise the shape won’t close.

Step 2: monetise the faces When I was a student, my classmates and I used to give blood. Of course, I’m sure some of us would have done it for nothing, but the majority of us gladly made the most of the fact that after the procedure we were given either money or food rations. That is to say, our loss was in some way compensated for (and I imagine that those who refused the money and food gained a different, non-material compensation: self-respect, a clear conscience, etc.). I take the same approach to compensation for material bonuses and discounts: to a business, giving a discount is like giving blood. So when you altruistically give away bonuses, it is important to realise that you are draining your organism of blood, and that it will be difficult to recover if you’re getting nothing in return. So now what you need to do is evaluate every face that you identified in the first step in relation to the key interest. If the key interest is price, then you should evaluate what the associated payment deadlines, potential recommendations, increase in product awareness, etc. would be worth to you in price. In other words, you need to consider how much you are prepared to pay for increasing your supply volumes, getting new recommendations, establishing a good relationship, etc. Everything should have a concrete price, from the experience gained to the opportunity to raise the company profile. If you skip this step, your opponent will easily take advantage of your ignorance by overstating the value of any non-material interests:

‘You do understand that working with us is essentially free promotion for you.’ ‘Not everyone gets the chance to work for such a huge corporation.’

Phrases like these seek to provoke the opponent into draining their business of blood for almost nothing in return. But if you have a good idea of what the actual value of the benefit would be, they will have a hard time confusing you. I myself have experienced one very common example of this. A very large company approached me about doing some workshops with them. After we had met, their HR specialists said they would be happy to commission some workshops on the theme of ‘tough negotiations’. They asked me to give them a 20 per cent discount, which they justified by the fact that I would get to put their name on my CV: many were prepared to work with them for free for that very reason. During our fight for the benefit, my position was open and transparent: I would also be prepared to work for free, but I would need to be clear about what I would get in return. As soon as they asked me about the 20 per cent discount, I turned to my polygon of interests. I had valued the ‘importance of the client’ face as being worth 5 per cent, so that was the discount I agreed to offer. Every face must be monetised based on the currency of the key interest. Everything needs a price, be it reputation, reviews, or the chance of increased supply volumes in future. When considering this question, it can be very useful to review your own or your company’s strategic plans.

Step 3: work out your desired position For this step, start with your key interest. Think about what you would want the value of the key interest to be. So if the key interest is the pay package, then pinpoint a salary figure; if it’s the payment deadline, then set a number of days; and if it’s a discount, then work out the percentage. People are often wired to instinctively demand the greatest possible value for their desired position. For example, when being offered a job, an applicant might mistakenly say they want a salary of 100,000 roubles, when they would have been perfectly happy with 70,000 roubles. The latter should be the desired position. Then, once you have that in place, you need to decide what the value of the other faces should be in relation to it. If I am offered my desired salary, how much annual leave am I prepared to accept? How important is this job title/team spirit, etc. to me?

By completing the following steps, we outline three important positions in negotiations:

  1. The red line: the minimum value of the key interest, below which our needs will not be met.
  2. The desired position: the value of the key interest that I will be fully satisfied with.
  3. The stated position: the value of the key interest that marks the start of negotiations.

Step 4: determine the red line Create a new polygon of interests based on your red line. Every polygon has a perimeter. Although the value of the faces may change, this total perimeter must never decrease. This is the most important rule to remember here. In other words, if you reduce the price (i.e. reduce the value of one of the faces), then you need to figure out what other faces you can increase to retain the original perimeter of the polygon. This rule allows us to meet our opponent halfway without hurting our own interests. For example, if your boss can’t give you a raise, you can still protect your interests through increased annual leave, more flexible working hours or additional skills. If a purchasing agent refuses a shorter payment deadline on a matter of principle, you can protect your interests by increasing the price, introducing a new product, or suggesting that they put your product in a more advantageous position. Step 5: Figure out your stated position Now you figure out your stated position. This is the position that you state at the start of the negotiation process. It should be higher than and clearly different to your desired position. I am often asked how much higher the stated position should be. This will be down to the individual, although it should of course be reasonable. I often test out the adequacy of the stated position using Henry Ford’s rule: ‘If there is any one secret of success, it lies in the ability to get the other person’s point of view.’ I ask myself: ‘If I were in my opponent’s position and had the information that they have, if my opponent started negotiations from this position would I continue to negotiate or would I walk away?’ If I would negotiate, then I have my stated position: I don’t fear it and I don’t doubt it. If I would walk away, however, then it is worth reducing it slightly and once again putting myself in my opponent’s shoes. This is essential, because if your stated position is high even for you, you will quickly surrender it, and in doing so your opponent will see there is the possibility of bringing you down even further.

Don’t deny people the opportunity to fight you for a benefit. They value what is harder to earn. As a rule, a benefit that is easily obtained feels less valuable. Once you have worked your way through the first three steps of this process, you will have created your magic polygon that will allow you not only to consciously regulate the tensions around the negotiating table, but also to fight for your benefit in an informed way.

An IT specialist is looking for a new job. His reasons for wanting this change are that his current job doesn’t offer a particularly high salary (50,000 roubles), the working hours are inflexible and the commute is inconvenient.

Let’s build his polygon of interests. Step 1 Let’s see what faces the polygon has. One will of course be salary, and another two are immediately clear: ease of commute and working hours. Let’s add in some other less prominent, but still present, interests: career growth, employment benefits, interesting work. So now we have six faces. Step 2 Now we give each face a value. How? The figures I use here are all examples and should not be used as a template; they will vary from situation to situation. What matters is that these values should be calculated in the ‘currency’ of the key interest, which in this case happens to be salary. So the question we need to answer becomes: how much am I prepared to pay from my own salary for a job closer to home, flexible working hours, etc.? And so, in roubles:

Location: max. 5,000. Working hours: max. 5,000. Career growth: max. 10,000. Employment benefits: 2,000. Having interesting work: max. 5,000. Perimeter not including salary = 27,000 roubles.

Step 3 From here we work out the desired position. As our key interest is salary, let’s assume that competitors for this job would accept a salary of 70,000 roubles. Remember: this isn’t the maximum they want, it’s what they would accept. Next, we need to go back through how we would value the remaining faces if we had a salary of 70,000 roubles.

Location is important, but being close to home isn’t essential: 2,000. Flexible working hours don’t matter: 0. Career growth isn’t so important – money is more so: 0. Employment benefits aren’t important: 0. Having interesting work is important: 5,000. Total perimeter = 77,000 roubles.

Step 4 Now it’s time to create a polygon for our red line, remembering to always balance the overall perimeter. This is where our list of face values from Step 2 comes in handy. Remember that the red line is the minimum value of the key interest; under no circumstances is this to be crossed.

Salary = 50,000. Location is important, proximity: 5,000. Flexible working hours: 5,000. Career growth is important: 10,000. Employment benefits are important: 2,000. Having interesting work is important: 5,000.

From this, we can see that we would be able to compensate for a lower salary through other benefits. In this example, a 20,000 rouble reduction in salary from our desired position can be balanced through the possibility of flexible working hours, career growth, employment benefits and interesting work. To check this fact: the perimeter of the polygon comes to 77,000 roubles.

Step 5 For your stated position, I recommend taking the perimeter of the red line as your figure for your key interest. So if our key interest is salary, and the perimeter of the red line is 77,000 roubles, then:

Salary: 77,000. Location isn’t important (although we will say it is): 0 Flexible working hours aren’t important (although we will say they are): 0 Career growth isn’t important (although we will say it is): 0 Employment benefits aren’t important (although we will say they are): 0 Having interesting work is important: 5,000.

When moving towards the other side in negotiations, follow these five rules: • Don’t hurry. It should be difficult for the other side to generate any movement. • As you move towards the opponent’s position, think about whether they are actually meeting you halfway or simply giving you that impression. Compromise can only be achieved when both sides are meeting each other halfway. • Don’t give away material benefits in exchange for mythical or non-monetised ones. Everything should have its price. • Under no circumstances should you make a concession at the start of negotiations in the hope of winning the opponent’s favour: you will only embolden them. • If you offer discounts, put them together like building blocks or weights on a dumbbell: a collection of smaller units rather than one big figure.

5 key techniques that can be particularly effective in a fight for the benefit:

  1. Eye contact.
  2. Strength in indifference.
  3. Saying no.
  4. Playing the ‘host’.
  5. Strength in your cause.

Our eyes are a very powerful weapon. By simply looking our opponent in the eye, we can either calm the emotions around the negotiating table, or send our opponent into a rage.

Eye contact is also important throughout the course of the negotiation process. For example, if your opponent is putting pressure on you or raising their voice, your eyes should tell them: ‘I know what you’re doing and why you’re doing it.’ After this, however, it is important to look away; sustained eye contact could be seen as a challenge or provoke a flare-up of emotions.

‘Need’ often drives many negotiators – in a bad way. That and fear, or what we can call a sense of over-motivation.

Imagine a person’s internal weighing scale during a negotiation. On one side we have their need for a positive response to their proposal, and on the other side lies rejection. When the need side outweighs the rejection side and that person isn’t prepared to hear ‘no’, then they have no other option – they aren’t prepared to walk away; they probably haven’t even considered it. A person in this situation is very weak, and their opponent will likely be able to get whatever they want from them. A negotiator is only powerful if their internal weights are balanced.

In July 1945, the USSR, USA and UK were still allies: a bloody war was raging on the Eastern Front against Japan, and President Harry Truman was anxious that Joseph Stalin should keep his word about entering into this war. The heads of state of these three countries all convened at a conference in Potsdam on 17 July, during which the question of Germany’s post-war administration was discussed. At the recommendation of Prime Minister Winston Churchill, President Truman, who had just received an encrypted telegram confirming the successful testing of the atom bomb, informed Stalin that the USA had created a weapon of mass destruction. The leaders of the USA and UK wanted to see how the Kremlin’s dictator would react to this message. But Stalin’s reaction was very restrained. He thanked Truman for notifying him and made no further comments on the matter. His behaviour seemed so strange that both Truman and Churchill thought Stalin simply hadn’t understood what they had said. Their attempt to put pressure on the Soviet leader at the conference and make him more amenable to their wishes was unsuccessful. Stalin, as witnesses have testified, understood perfectly well what the news meant. After the meeting, he called Igor Kurchatov in Moscow and demanded that he speed up his work on the Soviet atomic bomb.

Negotiators, like sharks swimming towards the smell of blood, are able to detect even the slightest hint of ‘need’. As soon as that hint appears, they pounce. A ‘need’ immediately makes you more vulnerable. Another technique the negotiation shark uses to submerge their victim in a sense of ‘need’ is to give a quick ‘yes’.

In the early 2000s, one of the managers working beneath me went to negotiate with a major chain. He came back beaming like a diamond and swanned straight up to my desk without even taking off his coat. ‘We’ve got the contract! They’re going to stock us in twelve stores, really favourable conditions.’ ‘OK. Do the sums and we’ll take a look.’ No more than ten minutes later he came back to me with the figures. ‘Look! The contract would be worth 12 milllion roubles per month. Would we be able to meet that supply? Allocate all of our reserve stock to me. How long will it take for us to bump up our volumes?’ His voice was practically cracking with joy. It’s worth noting here that 12 million is twice his monthly target. I could already tell what was going on, but as we know, you only learn from your own mistakes. So I said: ‘That’s great, go back to negotiate with them.’ The next day, he came into work a new man: in his mind he’d already moved up the social ladder; he was already planning what to spend his future bonuses on. He was wearing a smug smile and the look of a victor. And – of course – he was carrying a couple of catalogues for a famous car brand under his arm. The entire department looked on jealously. After hanging around in the office announcing his upcoming holiday plans and the new car he was going to buy, our hero set off for more negotiations. When he got back, looking like Napoleon himself, he dropped the draft contract and an appendix with the relevant prices onto my desk. I read the contract carefully, and when I reached the appendix – which put the discount at 20 per cent and featured numerous other terms that made the deal unprofitable – I got out my pen. At this point our hero, anticipating that I was about to sign, leapt into the air. Instead, however, he saw me slowly write: ‘Cannot agree to the terms of this deal – will not sign.’ It’s hard for me to describe what came next. The entire room shook with shouts and exclamations that were completely inappropriate not only for his level of seniority, but also for all social decency. Once his emotions had subsided – or, rather, when he had tired himself out – I said: ‘Dmitriy, I understand your frustration, and in your position I would be smashing things up, but let’s take a closer look at the situation.’ I walked over to the whiteboard on the wall, took out a pen and started to write. ‘According to the agreement, the supply volume would be worth 12 million roubles per month, right?’ I confirmed. ‘Yes!’ Dmitriy cried, looking around the room for support. ‘And the discount is 20 per cent, i.e. 2.4 million roubles. Right?’ ‘Yes, but we’d be getting such a major client, we really need this deal.’ He looked around again for support. Unhurried, I continued: ‘Now, according to the clause on marketing, we’ll have to make a monthly payment of 5 per cent of the purchase price, i.e. 480,000 roubles (the purchase price after the discount is 9,600,000 roubles).’ ‘Yes, but we know that products don’t sell without marketing.’ ‘Excellent! Now how much does our logistics company charge?’ ‘12 per cent,’ our hero replied with a groan. I wrote 1,152,000 roubles on the whiteboard and tallied up the total: 4,032,000 roubles. One of the other managers in the room said loudly: ‘That’s a loss!’ ‘Well . . . I guess there won’t be a deal then . . .’ ‘Why not? Let’s go back to the start and work this out.’

Let’s think about what led this experienced negotiator astray. Why didn’t he go through the terms of the agreement and clarify the details with the buyer from the beginning? Because when he set out for negotiations, Dmitriy was expecting to have to break down the buyer’s walls of indifference. The experienced ‘shark’ detected Dmitriy’s blood and pulled out a nice little trick in the shape of a quick ‘yes’. He made no resistance, but immediately said, ‘Of course, let’s work together,’ in Dima’s mind painting an image of a happy future. And in doing so, he inspired a sense of ‘need’ in Dima, a fear of losing this client and everything that came with it.

As a rule, a quick ‘yes’ is always followed by a ‘BUT . . .’

Dmitriy told me about the negotiations in detail, and we established that the figure of 12 million roubles hadn’t actually been put to paper anywhere: all the buyer had given were verbal assurances. So we decided to ‘get closer to the deer’. Our lawyers put together a protocol of disagreements, which stated that the supply volumes should come to a value of at least 12 million roubles. I had a long talk with Dima about the question of ‘need’, and a few days later he set off for further negotiations, accompanied by a trainee. Who, you might ask? Me. Now, if you are a manager, please listen to me when I say: if your subordinates are leading negotiations, you should only ever accompany them in one guise – that of ‘trainee’. Your role is to listen, keep your mouth shut and provide silent support to your colleague. If you decide to step into the negotiations, you can be sure that your opponents will squeeze even better terms out of you. The negotiations began: ‘Oh! Dima, how are you? Good to see you!’ ‘Hello, Vladimir.’ ‘So, where are we with the agreement? Have you signed it?’ ‘Of course, but we drew up a protocol of disagreements.’ ‘All right then, let’s take a look.’ He read it carefully and his facial expression turned. His friendliness vanished into thin air. ‘What’s this?’ Dima made a well-timed pause. ‘What, you want to tie us to a set supply volume?’ More pausing. ‘Do you even realise how many people we have queuing up to work with us?’ ‘We just put to paper what you and I had agreed verbally. Everything here is as we stated: the price, terms and volumes.’ ‘Yes, but I was giving a maximum volume.’ He buried his face in his computer screen and studied something carefully. We said nothing.

‘Plus that’s our total supply volume across all suppliers – do you really expect us to purchase that from you alone?’ ‘So what sort of figure are you planning to spend on our products each month?’ ‘I have no idea how they’re going to sell. And I don’t want to get into a systematic supply arrangement.’ ‘So how do you predict how a product will sell?’ ‘We do test sales for a two-month period.’ ‘Great! So let’s not worry about volumes for now. We can do some test sales instead. If our product meets your expectations then we can come back to these points.’

The chain’s first order was for a value of 240,000 roubles, after which our sales grew to 800,000 roubles – on our terms. We gained extremely valuable negotiation experience. And Dima truly was our hero: he was able to overcome his ‘need’ and seize the role of ‘host’ to take our negotiations forward.

A healthy level of motivation is a good thing. Desire is important: it allows us to progress towards the goals we’ve set for ourselves. So what sorts of behaviours give away the fact that we’re feeling a ‘need’?

• We talk too much, don’t listen, and interrupt others. • We display too much emotion. • We get ahead of ourselves and the stage of negotiations. • We apply ‘closing’ tactics, trying to finalise the deal as quickly as possible.

How to contain and control manifestations of ‘need’

  1. When going into negotiations, it is very important to be able to answer two questions: ‘What will I do if they accept?’ and ‘What will I do if they refuse?’ In other words, what will I do in the case of a ‘yes’ and a ‘no’? Dmitriy hadn’t known the answers to these questions; had he done so, he would have been well equipped to hear that crafty quick ‘yes’. The answers to these questions give us a good idea of what is going on around us. And they mean that we are ready to accept either outcome. When you answer these questions for yourself, you bring your internal weighing scales into a neutral position: the ‘yes’ stops outweighing the ‘no’. This is a strong position to be in when negotiating. If, despite this, your opponent has been able to force your internal scales and draw you out of a healthy state of motivation, then it is very important to recognise that you are displaying a ‘need’.
  2. Control your speech. When we feel a sense of ‘need’, we tend to speak faster and in a higher pitch.
  3. Focus only on what you can control: your voice, your way with words, your charm, your skills. Steer the negotiation process. Think about the results, but don’t get caught up in them. Interests can and should change during the negotiation process. Contracts at any cost often end up costing far too much.
  4. Pause. Pauses and even breaks are a very valuable tool in a negotiator’s arsenal.

A great number of unprofitable contracts and loss-making deals come about for two reasons:

The negotiator is afraid of saying ‘no’. The negotiator is afraid of getting a ‘no’.

Negotiation is the human effort to bring about agreements between two or more parties with all parties having the right to veto.

Get used to saying and hearing ‘no’.

  1. Whenever you receive a proposal or request, ask yourself a few questions: ‘When making me this tempting offer or asking me to do this service, what do they actually want from me?’ ‘Does this conflict with my own interests?’ ‘Will what they are offering me benefit me?’ ‘Would it be worthwhile for me to accept such terms?’

  2. If the proposal isn’t worthwhile, just say ‘no’ This ‘no’ should both be and sound like a final, unshakeable answer, one that doesn’t require any clarification.

Don’t give false hope. If you don’t want to do something, just say ‘no’. Even if the product isn’t of interest to you, as soon as you ask about price you are giving the other person the right to keep talking to you. If you ask when volunteers would be needed, then you are indirectly agreeing to help out. If you ask how much time your relative needs babysitting for, you are agreeing to play nanny. Only a resolute ‘no’ will get you out of needless resentment and unnecessary gestures.

In our culture (by which I mean the wider, Russian-speaking world), it is very important to explain why you are refusing someone. But this explanation should be clear and straightforward, and not give rise to any further discussion.

We are already familiar with the importance of this role in negotiation. Clearly if we don’t have to travel for negotiations, but let someone else travel to us (especially if from far away) while we sit waiting in our office in our comfortable chair, we have an advantage. We are the hosts. There’s a reason that we talk about a home advantage in sports. Any sportsman will tell you it’s easier to win on their home turf. In football, away goals are even given more value than home ones. However, sometimes we can’t avoid negotiating on our opponent’s turf, and our opponent may try to make us feel not altogether comfortable. We may have a long wait in the lobby or even the office itself, listening to detailed phone conversations before our ‘host’ even gives us the time of day. And then the questioning begins. All of this is done to further reinforce a role of ‘host’. The ‘host’ asks the questions, and the ‘guest’ can’t refuse to answer them. The ‘guest’ makes proposals, the ‘host’ picks and chooses. Picture how someone sits on a chair when they are the ‘host’. They will be sitting confidently, leaning back into their seat with their feet firmly on the floor or their legs crossed. Their movements will be smooth and decisive. The ‘guest’, on the other hand, will be almost frozen, sitting like a student on the edge of their seat, waiting stiffly and hesitantly to be called up to the board. Wherever you are (be it in your office or that of an important official, buyer or doctor), it is crucial to adopt a comfortable position – not imposing, but comfortable. During negotiations you need to move, not freeze.

In negotiations, there is only one way to take on the role of ‘host’: by taking your time to answer questions, especially if you are unsure of their intent. Ask counter-questions or ask for clarification if you aren’t completely sure where the question is going. Sun Tzu has a very effective saying for this situation: ‘The skilful fighter puts himself into a position which makes defeat impossible.’ Or, as Vladimir Tarasov puts it: ‘Get closer to the deer and you won’t miss.’ Reducing your distance to your target can compensate for a bad aim. Anything that is easy to check, check yourself. If a buyer tells you that your competitors are cheaper, don’t take them at their word: get closer to your target and check it yourself.

Remember those great words of wisdom: read the fine print. If someone is shouting and waving an order in front of you, telling you that you’re prohibited from doing something effective immediately, take it and have a good look at it. It might just be that it isn’t applicable to you. Or perhaps that it recommends against rather than prohibits.

Actions that help you to win the role of ‘host’: A comfortable, relaxed position at the negotiating table. Don’t rush to answer questions: clarify, ask counter-questions and ‘get closer to the deer’. Use pauses.

History tells us that as soon as a person starts to justify or defend themselves in some way, in the eyes of those around them they are immediately in the wrong.

Whenever Napoleon arrived at a populated area, the law had it that he was to be welcomed by the chime of bells. However, upon his arrival in one village there were no bells to be heard. Furious, he summoned the village leader and asked: ‘Why did you not ring the bells?’ ‘Well, you know, we didn’t know you’d be coming. And our bell ringer’s ill. And we don’t have a bell . . .’ Napoleon commanded the poor man be put to death.

A person who is justifying their own actions is asking their opponent to accept their conclusion, so they will try to offer many arguments. Self-justification is an act of weakness. A person who has confidence in their position lays out each argument in a consequent manner. They have nothing to prove, and every word they say oozes self-assurance. Had the head of the village been confident in his reasons, then one argument would have been enough: no one took the trouble to inform us of your visit. Yes, he would have been punished, but he might have kept his life. And so, while you need to have several arguments at the ready, it is very important to be confident in your own cause and not put all your cards on the table. Be a little greedy: always keep the trump card in your hand, and use it only when you need to.

When preparing your argument, it is crucial that you choose only those arguments you believe yourself. During negotiations, try to use them sparingly, and only bring a new argument to the table when you have exhausted the preceding ones.

It is also important to note that it is only possible to give your arguments if the negotiations are in a rational mode. When emotions are raging, even the strongest argument will seem like justification.

Negotiations can follow many modes, two of which are key. These are:

  1. The emotional mode.
  2. The rational mode.

A ‘tank’s’ constant objective is to draw their opponent into an emotional mode of negotiation, i.e. to put them into an emotionally unstable state. Why? Because in this the ‘tank’ sees a guarantee of success. If they succeed in drawing us onto an emotional plane, we will begin to make rash decisions and, as a result, fatal errors.

As negotiators dealing with a tough opponent, our main objective is to figure out how to shift negotiations back from an emotional to a rational mode.

Within each of us is a set of strings that react to certain words or actions. An exhaustive list of these strings would be impossible, but for our purposes we are mainly interested in the following:

  1. Pity.
  2. Fear.
  3. Greed.
  4. Lust.
  5. A sense of duty.
  6. Curiosity.
  7. Vanity.

So what happens? A manipulator will probe each of these strings individually. Why? To see which one resounds, causing us to do something that will favour them.

The actions of both the barbarian and the manipulator seek to force their opponent to do something that is in their interests. That is their goal: to play their opponent’s emotional strings.

Unlike the manipulator, a barbarian doesn’t aim for one string: they take a club and strike at them all.

When I got my first job as a sales manager, I was fairly young and ambitious, managing other youngsters who were just as ambitious as I was. My boss, however, was an authoritative old-timer. When it was time for our monthly reports, he would call me into his office and ask for that month’s figures. I would present our reports with enthusiasm and gusto – our indicators were always on target or better – but he would listen stony-faced and then say: ‘So what, you think you’re a star? That if you exceed my targets, you’re my hero? If I fired you today I could get ten others just like you.’

This is typical ‘barbarity’, because it hits many strings. Which ones, do you think? Essentially all of them. And ask yourself the question: what was his aim in doing this? What did he actually want from me? His main aim was to make something ‘whirr’ within me from his ‘click’; to make me run off and do something that would put me in a worse position and him in a better, more advantageous one. He wanted me to strain myself even more, so as to achieve even more than planned. But I, being quite rightly proud of my record, started to defend my own interests. I wanted time for holidays, to see my family, etc. He just wanted me to work, work, work. This is how a ‘barbarian’ works. A manipulator’s behaviour is slightly different. They are more artful.

I travel to Arkhangelsk for negotiations with a major chain. A young man appears, well dressed, an expensive watch on his wrist. He takes a seat and, without even looking at me, says: ‘Could you tell me whether you’d be willing to work with us on a ninety-day payment period?’ I know this isn’t in my interest. ‘No, we aren’t.’ ‘Why not?’ ‘Because our board of founders took the decision not to work with anyone on that basis.’ ‘Tell me, what is your position within the company?’ ‘Managing director.’ ‘Now tell me, can a managing director really not make up his own mind on such a simple question?’

This is elegant, skilful manipulation, targeting my vanity. This immediately tempts a reaction, at which point the other person is acting in the grip of their emotions. But the barbarian and the manipulator both have the same end goal: in these examples, my opponents both want me to do something that benefits them. In this particular instance, that is for me to give him terms that benefit him, not me.

If we are to look at this within the framework of the negotiation budget, we can note that the actions of both the barbarian and the manipulator seek to immediately increase this budget. We already know that as soon as emotions come into play, the negotiation budget grows. And that when our emotions come into play, we are far more prone to make concessions that we would never even have considered before. Remember Postulate 3 of the Kremlin school of negotiation: when you introduce your own scale of values, your opponent is shifted into an emotional mode of negotiations and their emotional strings are plucked. This is, of course, barbarism.

Many methods for working with barbarian negotiators demand a fast, unequivocal response. However, I find that fast, unequivocal responses can lead you deeper into a game I know as negotiating ping-pong. Essentially, you’ll stand there exchanging verbal attacks. But our primary task – as results-driven negotiators – is to shift negotiations from an emotional to a rational mode. To do this, we must first get our own emotions in check.

In 1955 a meeting of the heads of government of the USSR, USA, Britain and France took place in Geneva. Sharp exchanges occurred revealing serious differences between the former allies. Eisenhower, Eden and Edgar Faure fiercely argued that NATO was a force for peace, especially in Europe, while in fact their plan was aimed at swallowing up East Germany into West Germany, and whitewashing the remilitarisation of West Germany in peace-loving propaganda. In an effort to deprive the three Western powers of their notion that the Soviet Union was not doing its part in consolidating peace, the Soviet delegation, consisting of Khruschev, Bulganin, Molotov, Marshal Zhukov and myself, announced that the Soviet Union was willing to join NATO. We argued that, since NATO was dedicated to the cause of peace, it could not but agree to include the USSR. It is hard to describe the effect this announcement had on the Western delegations when it was made by Bulganin, as President of the Council of Ministers. They were so stunned that for several minutes none of them said a word. Eisenhower’s usual vote-winning smile had vanished from his face. He leaned over for a private consultation with Dulles; but we were not given a reply to our proposal.

Thorough preparation for negotiations can serve as an effective preventive measure against such blows.

Even an awkward pause is much better than an emotional response that risks drawing you into an exchange of fire from which you will either leave with nothing or a big loss.

When deflecting manipulative or ‘barbarian’ attacks, the main thing is to take your time before responding. Remember the three crucial steps:

  1. Spot an attack.
  2. Dodge the attack. Pause.
  3. Respond in a way that brings the negotiations back into a rational framework. If at all possible, this response should let you walk out of the negotiations with the door still open.

We will explore and perfect seven techniques:

  1. The reverse (to clarify intentions).
  2. The partial agreement (to set up a smokescreen).
  3. Connectors.
  4. The Marcus Aurelius.
  5. The predator.
  6. Share a smile.
  7. Show some humour.

Not every question or remark requires a response. As humans, it is in our nature to try to give lightning-fast responses to questions we are asked. When negotiating, we need to drop this human quality and instead follow a different principle: not every question requires an answer, especially if it is not clear what lies behind it.

What lies behind an opponent’s comments? This is what we have to find out. Alternatively, you can simply ask the person for some concrete advice. In the situation described, you could simply say: ‘What would you advise me to change? How would you advise me to do up my tie?’

This is a very good way of transitioning from the emotional to the rational plane. Firstly, if a person is in a constructive frame of mind – if their comment is well-meaning – negative criticism is not their goal and they simply want to offer assistance on the finer points of doing up a tie, then this forces them to either show you or teach you how. And if they aren’t in the frame of mind for a constructive chat, then the onus is on them to figure out a suitable response. You might well get a response along the lines of: ‘Do I look like a walking tie consultant?’ But in most cases they will simply step back from this emotional exchange, which is also a good thing. So it’s a win–win for you. The aim of these techniques for dealing with barbarism and manipulation is not to get into a game of ping-pong, but to move on to rational discussion.

I recently got my driver’s licence. I know I’m a young and inexperienced driver, so when I drive I get my husband to come along, as a sort of safety net. But the last time he kept on making these sarcastic remarks about the way I was driving, how I braked, how I changed gear . . . Anyway, I kept on getting emotional and losing track of what I was doing. I was nervous, my hands were shaking, and so I was making even more mistakes. Eventually I stopped, looked at him and said, ‘Darling, please teach me how to brake properly; show me how to do this, etc.’ From that moment on, the fault-finding stopped. Because it’s one thing to attack someone with a purpose, and another thing to teach them. Teaching is always harder. I realised that my husband was in a destructive frame of mind – he wanted to hurt me. He wanted to show me that I was a bad driver and that I didn’t deserve to drive. But he wasn’t at all prepared to teach me.

For this very reason, when you use the ‘reverse’ technique you are guaranteed of one thing at the very least: you will gain a more accurate understanding of other people’s intentions – whether they mean you well or want to do damage.

The following sorts of questions can help you to clarify your attacker’s intent:

• ‘What would you recommend I improve?’ • ‘What would you recommend I change?’ • ‘What should I pay particular attention to?’ • ‘What would be the best action to take?’

Don’t expect your opponent to suddenly open up and begin to talk after the first question asked. In general, you will have to repeat the question (or variations thereof) two or three times. If after this your opponent still doesn’t settle into a rational discussion, then the conclusion to draw is unambiguous: it’s time to end that round of negotiations.

The ‘reverse’ technique should be employed when the intent of an attack is unknown and when you still have the opportunity to understand the attacker’s true motives: are they trying to be constructive, or not? When posing a question, don’t repeat a negative message. If our opponent tells us they don’t find our proposal very constructive and our response is: ‘What don’t you find constructive about my proposal?, then we are simply reinforcing our opponent’s opinion. It is much better to send positive messages, such as: ‘What about my proposal could be improved?’ If your opponent offers a constructive recommendation in response, then that means they are in the frame of mind for constructive negotiations. But if the response is ‘You decide, I don’t know what more I can say’, then it’s time to realise that constructive discussions are not on the horizon. In this situation, it is better to take a break so that they have a chance to cool off and think. Say something along the lines of: ‘Thank you for your time. In that case I will try to make some changes. But if you could give me an idea of what to focus on I would be grateful.’ It might just be that after this your opponent will nevertheless start to open up and move away from a modus operandi of destructive attacks.

Before getting into a scrap, it’s worth asking yourself if it’s really necessary. What will it achieve? This question is key when it comes to our second technique for dealing with tough opponents, the ‘partial agreement’ technique. When we agree with our opponent, we give them no reason to keep on arguing with us; we don’t allow them to proliferate the conflict. When you are unsure of the intent of an attack, or when you don’t particularly want to get caught up in conflict and are unsure where engaging in an emotional exchange with the attacker might lead, then it is best simply to agree in part with their conclusions. In doing so, you will stop their attacks short, allowing you to discuss the burning issues in a rational way. But you need to agree with something that you do not consider to be a fundamental issue. This is a technique of the three paths: some things we can take as fact, others we can accept, but some things we will not agree with on principle. You can rattle on for hours about how much worse your competitors’ products are and still come to nothing. Or you can agree that their products are good, but that you also know what’s what, and let your opponent make up their own mind.

A young man is walking down a hallway at work. A manager from another department is walking towards him. The manager looks at him and says: ‘Your boots are dirty.’ The young man is immediately cast into an emotional frame of mind. He replies in the same way: ‘Who are you to be commenting on my boots?’ ‘Oh, right, I’ve heard you can’t handle criticism.’ What happens next? They squabble. And at a meeting later that evening, our hero stands up to give a report, but the same manager interrupts him and says: ‘No, no, stop. Your figures are all wrong.’ The young man knows that his figures are correct. ‘No, I’m certain that these figures are absolutely correct.’ In response he hears: ‘See, what did I say earlier? You can’t handle criticism.’

Everything has worked perfectly for the manager: the label has now been attached. And our hero, without even wanting it, has ended up in a situation where there’s no room for logic, only a sense of righteousness. But that very same righteousness suddenly turns out to be on the side of the person applying the label. Why? Because they got there first. The string is plucked a second time. The young man gets riled up again – this time in front of everyone – which leads them to believe he must be the one in the wrong. How else might he have responded to the quip about his dirty boots? He could have agreed! Which isn’t to suggest he should call himself a dirty slob who doesn’t look after his boots. All it would have taken was a simple agreement: ‘Yes, they are. It’s raining outside!’ Nothing else required. And what is this actually saying? That it’s raining. He doesn’t start to get defensive, doesn’t put a chokehold on his own interests. He simply confirms that it’s raining, in doing so disarming his opponent.

It’s important to learn how to pinpoint when to fight with your opponent and when to work with them. When you express agreement, no matter the topic, you are essentially showing that person that you are with them.

At its bare bones, the ‘connector’ technique is the following: not every question or remark is worth a response. Often a simple ‘and . . .’ is enough. Then wait for your opponent to keep on talking.

‘Doctor, you really aren’t helping me at all.’ ‘Please explain what you mean.’ ‘Well, I don’t feel like I’m making any progress.’ ‘And . . .?’ ‘I find it hard to do the exercises you recommended.’ ‘I see. What do you find most difficult about the exercises?’

When in skilled hands, a long, drawn-out ‘and . . .’ can be a deadly weapon. This technique is as effective as it is dangerous. Now, the first thing to say is that I recommend this technique only to those who already know how to sustain a pause. If you pause after a drawn out ‘and . . .’ but still end up breaking the silence, then the battle’s as good as lost. Secondly, this technique should not be used with opponents who are higher than you in position or status, or with whom you simply feel in a ‘dependent’ position. You risk putting your foot in it.

Not all attacks need to be answered. Often, a pause or a long, drawn-out ‘and . . .’ are more than enough. However, this should only be used with equals or subordinates, and only if you know how to maintain a pause. In other circumstances, it is best to use other techniques.

Only once in my entire career have I seen someone say, ‘You’ve got five minutes – give me your pitch and then go,’ and actually put a watch on the table. This was a very bold move, aimed not so much at showing their lack of time and forcing their opponent to limit themselves to those five minutes but as a way of getting inside their opponent’s head. When facing a tough negotiator like this, use the Marcus Aurelius technique and say to yourself: ‘Do what you must, come what may.’ Under no circumstances should you get bogged down in declarations (‘I’m sure two minutes will be all you need’), and don’t assure them how concise you’ll be: in that situation, you really only have twenty seconds to capture the other party’s imagination, and that’s precisely what you need to use that time for. The only way you will pique their interest is through your own confidence, which is in this context the same as being results-oriented. If they see a confident, results-oriented opponent, they will still stop and listen. But if the person before them is faltering and constantly checking their internal timer to keep to their alloted time, they aren’t going to want anything to do with them. That, or only under terms that are maximally advantageous to themselves.

When people say phrases like: ‘I heard your company’s gone bankrupt’, ‘I heard you never stand by your words’, or ‘This is all junk.’ How should we react to remarks like these? First and foremost, when attacks like this happen, you should never under any circumstance ask where your opponent got that information. Firstly, by repeating a negative message, you reinforce that person’s belief that they should have nothing to do with you.

Secondly, every word you say will simply confirm and reinforce the attitude that has already formed in your opponent’s mind. These attitudes hold a great weight and significance. As soon as you become associated with an attitude in a person’s mind, you need to change it. The equation for dismantling such attitudes is: denial + positive message.

During the Soviet Union a certain Nikolai Stepanovich, a party official, took his wife to the theatre. There, to everyone’s great dismay, her fur coat was stolen, causing a scandal. Six months later, two high-ranking party officials were deciding whom to appoint to a prestigious position. One of them said: ‘Let’s give it to Nikolai Stepanovich.’ To which the second replied: ‘No, not him, never. He was linked to some unpleasant business – either he stole a fur coat, or someone stole one from him.’

‘I heard your company’s gone bankrupt.’ ‘Quite the opposite, our company has a stable market position. But why take my word for it: we work with companies like . . .’ If listing names of other companies, they need to have a strong reputation. If a person thinks that companies A, B and C can do no wrong, it then follows that if they are working with you then everything must be fine: your market position is strong. After saying this, make a short pause for breath and move on to the planned discussion topic.

To interrupt an attack choose one of two methods: tough or gentle Tough interruption: ‘These allegations aren’t constructive. As you are opposed to our decision, your behaviour is clearly aimed at frustrating these negotiations. I would ask you to stick to the subject at hand, otherwise I will have to bring these talks to a close.’ Gentle interruption: ‘Unfortunately it seems we have got caught up in mutual recriminations, which will make it hard for us to meet our goals. I suggest we get back to the main topic under discussion.’

Rules of use: • Clearly and directly tell your opponent that you do not appreciate the way they are speaking or behaving. • Address them politely. • Change your physical position: lean back into your seat, give a deep sigh, or it can even be effective to stand up and take a few unhurried steps. What is important here is that your movements are smooth and confident – no bursts of energy or jerkiness.

When we are willing to truly understand a person’s concerns, we not only become the ‘predator’; we gain wisdom. We don’t let ourselves get worked up by even the most negative message; we react only to the essence of the issue. By doing so, we move negotiations into a rational sphere.

It is very important to take on the state of the ‘predator’. Only then will you be able to understand a person’s message rather than react to the shell they are hiding behind. Let’s remind ourselves that the fundamental aim of these techniques for standing up to manipulation or ‘barbarism’ is, where possible, to shift the discussion into a rational sphere and move on to a constructive discussion of the issues that led to the meeting being set. If the attacks continue and you want to cut the meeting short, then you need to call it off in a way that allows you to leave with your head held high. Nowadays, many negotiations happen over email. The predator technique allows you to avoid fatal errors that could otherwise arise when you react to an emotional message.

We have seen that when using the predator technique it is very important to establish or deduce the true message behind what might well be an overly tough phrase from your opponent. However, it is no less important to clarify the manipulator’s true aims. When you are unsure what lies behind negative remarks, or when you find it difficult or even impossible to identify their true message, then clearing up your opponent’s true aims could be key. How is this done? By asking questions. In theory, this play also has its own name: questioning the manipulator’s intent. But the main thing to know is that you don’t just throw this question in their face; instead, you pose it in such a way that your point is nevertheless clear. In particular, the construction ‘what for’ makes the true aims of the manipulator clear, and it is therefore very important for us. When faced with this question, the opponent will either reveal their intent or step back from the exchange. Either option works well for us. If the opponent is open to constructive negotiations, then this will lead them off the emotional plane and allow us to continue negotiating in a rational one. If, however, they are in a destructive frame of mind, then they will simply stop pursuing their point, which is also good. At the very least, this will lessen our negotiation budget.

Sergei Kharitonov describes a model that negotiations practically always follow: security – goals – partnership. In my experience, negotiations often get stuck in the ‘security’ phase. Opponents are unable to progress beyond this stage as they are unsure whether what their opposite number wants is a completely safe option for them. Let’s take an example: a salesperson is attempting to convince a buyer to change supplier, but the buyer keeps on hiding behind excuses. Here, we have to understand that, to the buyer, the salesperson represents danger: with them comes change, and if their product doesn’t sell, then what will management say? Getting past this stage is crucial. And knowing how to shift negotiations into a rational mode makes it easier to do so. By being a predator and thinking about your opponent, you will be better able to understand what they actually want. Most of the time, behind negative remarks lies either a certain aim – a desire to get something – or a concern of some kind. The objective of any good negotiator is to recognise which is the case and act accordingly – that is to say, to approach the target or step away from the exchange, if partnership isn’t possible at the given time.

It is worth clarifying what the person’s motives are, and by this I mean what they actually want, rather than why they are saying what they are. The question ‘why?’ has two very important drivers behind it: why as a reason and why as a purpose (for what). It is very important not to confuse the two. When asking about your opponent’s true motives, you can phrase the question any way you like, but the drive of the question should be: for what? If you aren’t entirely sure what someone intended, then you urgently need to get to the heart of the matter. You will find that this effort reaps rewards. As a practising negotiator, my toolkit is full of expressions that can be used to question intent. Here are just a few of them:

• ‘What makes you say that?’ • ‘What is it that you’re trying to ask?’ • ‘What do you mean by the words . . .?’ • ‘What are you actually asking me to do?’

For extra practice, try to come up with some of your own questions. But don’t forget, you are questioning purpose, so the drive of the question should be ‘for what?’ Questioning a manipulator’s intent can also be a very effective line of defence against false choices that force you to play by someone else’s rules. If you have ever had the dubious fortune of holding talks with the criminal underground and with officials, you will probably have noticed the similarities in the tactics they use when defending their views and interests. Both will start by pulling the rug out from under their opponents’ feet in exactly the same way, to demonstrate that talks with them won’t follow the accepted rules. Crooks will appeal to certain understandings, while officials will appeal to laws – or to specific interpretations of these laws that suit their interests. From the very beginning, both will draw conclusions with the greatest yardstick of truth, but based on very specific rules and values. No matter what the situation, they will always be right, because you can never play as equals on their field and by their rules. As a result, the behaviours or rules of the game that favour the opponent will be imposed on you, and you will have no choice but to follow them.

Once, while I was participating in judicial proceedings, one lawyer decided to provoke the other, and his opponent started to play by his rules. He turned to his opponent with the question, ‘Now tell me: do you think your client has the exclusive right to break the law?’ However, his opponent turned out to be well-equipped for these negotiations. After a moment’s pause, he replied: ‘Why are you asking me that question when the answer is obvious?’ The attack was unsuccessful, and the point went to the other side.

Give compliments using the formula: ‘honesty – politeness – sincerity’. And don’t forget: ‘I’m looking at you – I see you – I’m interested in what you have to say.’ Don’t encourage rude behaviour. Respond to rudeness with politeness, and in doing so disorient your opponent. Keep a set of quotes. These don’t have to be from great thinkers or famous people. But remember the ‘comma’ rule: after staving off a manipulative attack, bring the negotiations back into a constructive mode.

Principles of psychological influence

  1. Reciprocity. According to this principle, we are obliged to try in some way to repay the treatment we receive from others. As Niccolò Machiavelli noted, we strive more to do good than to receive it. Virtually all societies are united by a shared concept of gratitude. This feeling prompts a person to respond to politeness with politeness, a gift with another gift and a concession with a concession.
  2. Consistency. People strive to be consistent in their words and deeds. Having given their word, they will endeavour to keep it. Striving to be consistent, a manager who has made a decision will see the matter through, even if their actions will have negative consequences. This desire to appear consistent frequently prompts us to act against our own interests.
  3. Social proof. According to this principle, we decide what is right and what is not based on what the people around us think. There is a strong tendency to consider an action ‘right’ if many people act in the same way. In short, ‘herd mentality’. Constructions like ‘The majority of our suppliers were open to us deferring our payments’ or ‘Practically the whole team agreed to do some work on Saturday’ are used to prompt us to make the ‘right’ decision.
  4. Liking. As a rule, we are more willing to agree to the demands of those we know and like. This isn’t simply a question of pleasantness; a ‘similarity’ factor is also involved. We like people who are like us – be that physically, psychologically or socially. Here Mowgli’s principle is important: ‘We be of one blood, ye and I.’38
  5. Authority. We have a deep-rooted need to show obedience to authorities. From the cradle onwards, it is ingrained in us that we should listen to our parents; that mentors and teachers are always right. ‘You should act more like your grandfather,’ etc. This system of authority is highly developed, allowing for many other systems of relationships to be developed and reinforced within it.
  6. Scarcity. Virtually everyone is, to some degree, liable to be influenced by this principle. In essence, the value of something we view positively significantly increases if its availability decreases. The thought of potentially missing out on something influences us much more than the thought of obtaining it.

Negotiators often make the mistake of naming their lowest price early on in negotiations. Don’t ever name your lowest price straight away. You have to resist this urge. We’re all aware of the inexplicable pull a person feels to focus on low cost right off the bat: they think that if they name their lowest price straight away then they can avoid haggling. Nothing of the sort. No matter what price you name, even your very lowest, people will try to haggle with you. The only difference is that in this case any deal will become completely unprofitable to you.

In negotiations, it is crucial to introduce your own comparison system. But to ensure that the options you are proposing appear maximally attractive to your opponent, you need to think about what they will consider most beneficial – a discount described as a percentage or as a sum of money? And what should you compare it with – the previous year or the previous month?

Note: an experienced estate agent will always show prospective buyers the most expensive property first. Conversely, if the clients are renters, they will show them the worst, least attractive option first. A discount of 5 per cent might not sound like much when a big transaction is being made (1 million roubles, say), but saying that the saving is 50,000 roubles makes it immediately more compelling. The opposite is also true: when selling an item for 100,000 roubles, telling the buyer that they can save 5,000 roubles won’t hold much weight, whereas a 5 per cent discount might give them the push they need to buy.

People tend to be drawn to compromise. From this, there are a few different strategies that you can employ in negotiations.

  1. Concede. That is to say, immediately try to strike a deal on the compromise. This is a bad strategy, and experienced negotiators will avoid it. Why? Because in denying your opponent the chance to haggle with you, you are also denying them any psychological participation in the decision-making process. You are immediately imposing options on them, and in a visible way. On the whole, attempts to move straight to a compromise will lead nowhere.
  2. Choose one position and stick with it to the end, without any give-and-take – i.e. demonstrate no leniency. This behaviour model often provokes resistance. Newton’s law kicks into action – every force has an equal and opposite force. So your opponent will start to push back. And if you stand resolutely by your initial plan and insist on having things only your way, your opponent will start to resist simply to frustrate you.
  3. Assert your proposal for a long time, but when the opponent shows signs of pushing back take a slight step down from your initial demands. This is the strategy often employed by skilled negotiators. For example: in negotiations with a potential tenant, a landlord names the rent as 100,000 roubles, and does not budge from this figure. However, when it’s clear that the potential tenant is walking away, the landlord makes some sort of movement in their direction. But what is the right way of doing this? Give and take: ‘OK, you’ve talked me into it, I’m prepared to decrease the rent to 90,000 roubles if you pay me two months’ upfront.’ And here, as we see, we have a compromise.

It should be noted that the latter strategy is the most widely used negotiation model in Russia. Even as far back as Soviet times, American diplomats noted that Soviet diplomats would always overstate their position and firmly stick to it, only slightly softening their demands at the very end of negotiations. In negotiations, you can make use of a person’s desire to reach a compromise, combined with the contrast principle, to put forward your demands effectively.

A travel agency was selling spaces on a wine tour in the French wine regions. The price of this trip was around 180,000 roubles. When the manager of the travel agency presented this tour, everyone would listen enthusiastically to begin with, but when she came to the question of price then almost everyone would refuse. The agency came to me to ask for assistance on selling this trip. That is to say, to develop a sales technique that would help them to actually make these tours happen. We changed their sales technique, applying the principles of influence. So, instead of costing 180,000 roubles, the first tour the agent presented cost 300,000 roubles. We artificially increased the price to its maximum. Of course, the clients were stunned. They would say the price was too high, at which point the agent would give them the reason: the flights were all business class, the hotel rooms luxury, and guests would be personally accompanied by a sommelier. The majority of clients would then say that they didn’t need all of those services or bonuses. That they would be happy to fly economy class. Then the second option would be proposed, costing 180,000 roubles. But the agent would point out that that package would involve them staying in a shared room (two to a room). And once again, the majority of potential buyers would agree to fly economy class, but not to share a room. At which point all that remained was to propose the third option, costing 220,000 roubles. And what do you think? The majority of packages were immediately sold, even at 220,000 roubles!

If we want to encourage people towards a certain decision, we need to bundle up our proposals into packages. Ideally, there should be three. Don’t forget to package your options in the following way and to present them in the correct order:

  1. Unfavourable proposal. Immediately sweep this aside yourself: oh, that option isn’t great for either of us.
  2. The cheapest, but also less attractive option, to offer a contrast.
  3. Finally, the contrast option. A compromise for both sides. Only by doing this will you achieve your benefit.

In negotiations, the best tactic is to choose a position, maintain it for a fairly long time and then make a slight stepdown while asking for a reciprocal concession from your opponent.

The antidote and resistance are one and the same – always remember your benefit, and stick to it. Keep within the polygon of interests that you have constructed and remember that you can only exchange one material value for another. So if you are being asked to exchange a material value for a non-material one, you need to know exactly what it’s worth.

My wife and I were recently looking to buy a plot of land near Moscow. We were told the price and agreed to it. However, the next day, when we arrived at the office to pay the deposit, the sales manager told us that the price had gone up since the previous day. When we asked why we hadn’t been told, she was all surprise: what do you mean you haven’t been told? Upon which she started to blame the associate we had dealt with the day before, who had taken us through all the details of the deal. The new manager tried to persuade us that her colleague had had no authority to withhold that information and that she would be punished. Now, by this point even we were starting to feel somewhat responsible for the situation; that we should agree to the new terms for the associate’s sake as much as anything else. This is what I term a ‘blow below the belt’ in negotiations. The ‘blow below the belt’ play works in the following way: once someone has reached an agreement with their opponent and taken that step towards collaboration, they will be filled with positive feelings and expectations that cause them to expose themselves. This continues until the cunning negotiator is sure that enough parties are implicated – the negotiator, managers, friends – to make backing out difficult. And that all of these parties – even those who are only indirectly affected – already have great expectations. Then, all of a sudden, an obstacle will appear that completely changes the course of the deal: competitors have come along with better offers, for example, or it emerges that the supplier can’t supply the item the buyer needs because the original offer was only applicable when paired with another, redundant item. But by this point, pulling out would be difficult. After all, plans have already been finalised, and that particular buy or sale has already been incorporated into those plans.

However, a word of warning: be very careful when employing this method. If your opponent knows how to react to it, how to put up a block (i.e. how to block a ‘blow beneath the belt’), then their response will be both strong and very painful. If you are preparing to use this play, it needs to be planned down to a tee and packaged up both beautifully and flawlessly.

Resistance When someone suddenly changes their terms, you should ask yourself a very important question: if I knew what I now know about this deal or agreement, would I have agreed to these terms? Remember that a desire for consistency is one of the methods of psychological influence. As Robert Cialdini points out: a desire to appear consistent often causes us to act against our own interests. Or, as American philosopher and public figure Ralph Waldo Emerson put it even more sharply: ‘A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.’ My wife and I asked ourselves the same question about the plot of land. Would we have bought it had we known it would cost 5 per cent more? Yes, we would have. In that instance, we assessed the situation and grasped what was going on, and we decided to take the negotiation process further. Of course, I tried to haggle some better terms, but I knew that the decision we had made was a conscious, informed one. I’m not suggesting that you necessarily pull out of a decision you’ve already made. I’m simply saying that you should think it through again: do I really need a car right now? And do I really need all the specs that this one has? In short, you need to weigh up the pros and the cons. And it is very important to ask yourself this question not in the now, the point at which you are today, but to take all of your knowledge with you and cast your mind back to the point at which you made the original decision. If you ask yourself whether something is favourable once the change in terms has occurred, then you are more likely to tell yourself it is, because the rule of consistency will have come into force. You will even start to persuade yourself. If you have been caught by a blow below the belt, then take your time and keep your emotions in check. You need to tell yourself to stop and make a clear-headed assessment of the situation. Take another look at your polygon of interests. If the new offer is still favourable, then move forwards in the negotiation process. But if not, then go back to the drawing board and look at everything afresh: the goal posts have changed, which calls for more negotiations, plain and simple. Otherwise you will simply keep on letting blows past you. Every time someone tries to deliver a blow below the belt – i.e. suddenly change the terms – in negotiations you are participating in, it is then your job to reassess the situation and cast your mind back. In fact, casting your mind back can be a very useful thing in general. It will immediately give you answers to a wide range of questions, from whether to hire a candidate to whether to work for a company or enter into collaboration.

By giving your opponent the opportunity to reject you, you aren’t actually giving them anything at all. They already have that. But by doing so, you take a slight step back, which makes them intuitively try to get closer to you. If people want to lumber you with a sense of added responsibility by giving you a right that you already have, then simply weigh up the pros and cons of their offer carefully and, if it goes against your interests, give them a firm ‘no’.

Negotiators will often encourage reciprocity. You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours. Of course, reciprocity is natural. Machiavelli noted that people don’t like to feel indebted; that when people do us some kind of service or favour, we try to respond in kind to avoid that very feeling of indebtedness. But many negotiators exploit this desire of ours to not feel ‘indebted’. So they will give us some small service or insignificant gift, in the hope of drawing some quite significant pampering from us during the negotiation process in return.

The regional manager of a major trading company earned a reputation of being a real go-getter, capable of winning over even the most unaccommodating buyer. He had a secret technique for this. Instead of forcing his way in and talking himself up to potential partners, at the beginning of the business relationship – during the first meeting or by post – he would give his opponent a very interesting gift. Now, when I say interesting, read: valuable. Sparing no expense, he would commission quite pricey market research on the development tendencies in the branch in which his opponents operated. Then he would go through the reports and pull out the key findings. This gift would be so valuable to the buyer that he would of course be in their good books immediately.

If you would like to give someone a gift and force them into some back-scratching, then follow these rules:

  1. Show sincerity and expect nothing in return.
  2. If you are giving gifts to more than one person in an organisation, the gifts should be of equal value. If you would like to single out one individual, then it is best to do so personally to prevent others from finding out.
  3. When choosing a gift, work from your opponent’s benefits, not your own. For many people a smile, compliment or attention are more valuable than an expensive material object.

Resistance To prevent yourself from becoming a victim of ‘professional’ gift-makers who know how to use this play, remember these two rules:

  1. Always consider what might be expected in return from someone who ‘altruistically’ offers you an enticing service or gives you a gift. Sincere gifts require no response, and you do not need to feel ‘indebted’. If someone has given you a gift and is demanding something in return, then they were deliberately manipulating you. This also requires no response.
  2. Do not accept a gift if you are certain you will have to settle your tab later.

The preparation technique is not about scripting negotiation scenarios. Instead, it is based on the ability to draw yourself a roadmap (a very popular term of late). The main thing that distinguishes a script from a map is that when a negotiator has a pre-scripted scenario in mind – even one with a number of possible offshoots and variants – it is unlikely to correspond exactly to that of the opponent. This lack of overlap can lead to aggression on both sides: after all, both will try to stick to their script. A roadmap, on the other hand, has a starting point and a destination, which can be reached by a variety of routes – even adopting the opposing side’s script. With a roadmap we are able at any time to evaluate where we are, what is going on, and what our next step should be. Remember: negotiations cannot be won or lost; it is only possible to determine exactly where you are and what your next steps need to be. Another advantage of a roadmap is that we are prepared to hear a ‘no’ from our opponent and make a clear-headed assessment of whether we really are on the right track, moving in the right direction. Should anything happen, we are also in a better position to change our route or even our destination. This allows us to be flexible in negotiations without bending over backwards. A roadmap takes into account both the strategy and the tactics of the negotiation process.

Before going into negotiations, you need to ask yourself seven key questions. Once you have answered them, you can be sure that you will have a clear and understandable roadmap ready to hand. Some relate to strategy and begin with question words like ‘what’ and ‘where’; others reveal tactics and begin with the word ‘how’. A word of warning: these questions must be answered in order. It can often be tempting to jump on ahead, but I advise against this: if your answer to just one question is unclear (or absent), then your map will not be up to the job and you will run the risk of getting lost. Use the following procedure: move on to the next question only once you have a clear answer that you can recount for the previous one.

Seven key questions for preparation

  1. What do I have at the start of my journey?
  2. Where do I want to get?
  3. Is it realistic?
  4. How will I progress towards this goal?
  5. What will I be happy with?
  6. What will I do if I get a ‘yes’?
  7. What will I do if I get a ‘no’?

Question 1: What do I have at the start of my journey? This question isn’t as naive as it might at first seem. Of course, more often than not people are adamant they know where they are. Which is true, to some extent: even if we’re lost in a forest, we will know which forest we’re lost in, the bus stop we got off at on the hunt for wild mushrooms, the turns we made along the way and, finally, which way is north and which way south. But by the same token, if we’re lost, we will also have some difficulty setting out the rest of our route. When you start negotiations, you are setting out on a specific route that you will need to travel from start to finish while gathering those very mushrooms you have set out in search of. To prevent yourself from getting lost, you need to know the entire route; you also need to have a very clear idea of where your path started. This is particularly important in mountaineering, for example, where, in order to conquer the summit safely, you need to pinpoint the start of your route. Experienced mountaineers will know that your chances of success are directly dependent on your choice of starting point

Information on the opponent What do they want? What will their arguments be? What is important to them? What do they know about me? What do they think of me? What are their interests? What is their key issue? What problem do they want to fix?

What is important to know Where they work (company, department) What they like Who their friends are Where they live (country, city)

Question 2: Where do I want to get? In other words: what do you want to get out of these specific negotiations? What is your goal? Picture yourself driving along the autobahn. It’s a long, monotonous road, the radio is playing and your thoughts begin to drift. Soon, without noticing, you start coasting slightly to one side. But as you hit the hard shoulder, your car starts to shake as though it’s on a washboard. Suddenly your mind comes back to your lane and you get back into it. A goal works the same way. When it’s there, it makes it very difficult for you to be drawn out of your lane. And even if that does happen, you will get back into the right lane when you remember your target destination.

Before we move on to look at how to set goals, let’s discuss what the results of negotiations can be. Basically, all results can be divided into two groups:

  1. Progress made: some sort of concrete step forward has been made, the next meeting has been scheduled, terms have been discussed, etc.
  2. Your guess is as good as mine: no concrete step has been made. You had a nice chat, etc.

When you have a goal, you approach it step by step without deceiving yourself or justifying unsuccessful meetings that had a snowball’s chance in hell of coming off.

Some rules for setting goals Goals should be within the realm of your control. Closing a deal is not a goal. It is important to have a clear understanding of what rests on you and what doesn’t. Remember Bulgakov’s words: ‘to rule one must have a precise plan worked out for some reasonable period ahead. Allow me to enquire how man can control his own affairs when he is not only incapable of compiling a plan for some laughably short term, such as, say, a thousand years, but cannot even predict what will happen to him tomorrow?’

A Roman dignitary decides he wants to learn how to ride a chariot and signs up for a course with a famous trainer. At the end of the course, he wants to test out his new-found skills, so he challenges his trainer to a race. He is desperate to win. They race three times, and the dignitary loses every time. ‘You didn’t teach me everything you know!’ he complains to his teacher. ‘What are you saying? Of course I did!’ the trainer replies. ‘I taught you everything. You just couldn’t use the knowledge I gave you in the right way. In a race, what’s most important is for your horse to feel at ease while running. That’s why it needs to be harnessed properly, and during the race you have to control it so that it holds the right direction, at the right speed. But when I was overtaking you, you were doing everything in your power to outpace me. And when you were in front, you were thinking about keeping me behind you. By putting all of your energy into keeping ahead of me at all times, you forgot your main task – to control your own horse. That, and that alone, is why you lost.’

Here, the dignitary does everything in his power to overtake everyone. In his obsession with results, he forgets that you can only control what lies within your power. In the same way, during the negotiation process we should focus on what we can control – manage our sense of ‘need’, ask questions, use all of our skills and knowledge, and gather and analyse as much information as possible. When we do this, the results will come organically.

Question 3: Is it realistic? This question has to be asked before you move forwards. If your answer is ‘yes, it’s completely achievable and realistic’, then move on to question four. But if you feel that your goal may be difficult or even impossible to achieve then I would recommend going back to question two and finding a different answer.

Setting achievable goals before – and not after – negotiations is crucial. Note where your checkpoints are, so that you will be able to take in and weigh up your next steps.

Question 4: How will I progress towards this goal? This question is one of tactics. It is important to have a clear idea of the toolkit you have at your disposal for negotiations, and how you are going to use your negotiation ‘weapon’ (which methods, rules of influence, etc.). However, most important are the questions of when, how and with whom you plan to negotiate, as well as how to approach your opponent.

When holding complex team negotiations it is very important to work with all of the participants involved; to find the key to that secret chamber, as it were, and figure out who inside there influences the decisions and how. I’d like to pause for a moment on a very common misconception among negotiators: the higher the position their opponent holds, the more likely that this person is the decision-maker. This is often not the case. I mean, surely a manager can delegate their authority to their subordinate? Or the reverse: even if a CEO is negotiating personally, they might be doing so only nominally – the decision may in fact fall to a board of shareholders or owner, i.e. those not participating in the negotiations at all. In such a way, to assume that you already know everything about the decision-making process in your opponent’s company is one of the biggest blows you can deal yourself.

To maintain an accurate worldview you must continue to analyse a situation as it develops, questioning who else might have an interest in the decisions being made. How do you go about this? Well, you need to investigate and analyse: • The vertical hierarchy in the organisation: who reports to whom and how. • The horizontal hierarchy: who stands beside whom, who is an influencer, who is the éminence grise wielding the power behind the throne.

During the negotiation process, don’t let the obvious vertical hierarchy be the only thing to guide you. You need to do some reconnaissance work; seek out the person standing in the wings, so to say. The search for the éminence grise is an important task for any negotiator, regardless of the level at which the negotiations are taking place.

In organisations, a role of no small importance in the decision-making process is played by the so-called ‘blocker’. In this context, a ‘blocker’ is someone who doesn’t let us into the decision-making process. Many authors recommend sidestepping this blocker. However, I would recommend learning to work with them, collaborating with rather than contending against them. Remember: blockers are not the enemy. All being well, blockers can be potential sources of information, but you need to learn how to use them. To do this, it is important to understand why they aren’t letting you access the decision-maker. There can be a few reasons for this. When we figure out which one it is, the key we need to the secret chamber is suddenly much easier to find. Here are some of the main reasons:

• A desire to feel important or respected. • A desire to appear important, competent, or higher in rank than they really are. • This is part of their job; they are simply following orders. • Loyalty to a competitor.

If someone is lacking in status, give them a chance to feel more important. Never show your negative attitude to a blocker. The blocker can potentially be a good source of information. But in order to win this information, you need to first show them some attention, and second, ask questions like:

• Of course I’ll show you our proposal, but could you please let me know who else might have an interest in seeing this decision made? • Is there anyone who might be offended if they don’t get to see the proposal? • Could I ask you to take a look and let me know what you think, or if there is anyone else I should invite for a final discussion?

If you come to a blocker with a ‘request for advice’ when resolving an issue, then it is highly likely that they will help you and become an ally. But if you start to make demands and show a negative attitude, then the wall standing before you will only grow taller.

Timing is important. The time of day and day of the week that negotiations take place on are both significant. At times, when arriving for negotiations, a negotiator may be met with inexplicable aggression from their opponent that they can’t understand. Anger is an internal state caused by certain physical and physiological processes in the body.

Anger is mainly caused by:

  1. Tiredness.
  2. Unfulfilled expectations: a plan that doesn’t work out.

So, if we are looking for productive negotiations where there’s going to be no anger dumped at our feet, we need to choose our time wisely.

The best time for negotiating is either in the morning between 10.00 and 12.00, or immediately after lunch. On a physiological level, it is hard for a person to be in an aggressive state after lunch (after eating, the blood flows to the stomach, whereas in the presence of aggression it flows to the face and hands). For the record, the best lawyers in America try to schedule hearings for complicated court cases immediately after lunch. Statistically speaking, sentences are much softer after lunch. This is why timing is so important. The same goes for the days of the week. Monday and Friday are the worst days on which to negotiate.

Negotiation guidelines are often viewed as a purely technical issue, a question of protocol at best. This comes with the assumption that agreeing on the substance of the matter trumps all other considerations. Formalities, after all, are just that: formalities. In other words, we once again see the Napoleonic principle of ‘We’ll engage in battle, and then we’ll see’ kick into action. Drafting negotiation guidelines is, in fact, an important part of the negotiation process, no less so than the discussion of the matter at hand. It’s worth noting that, without a mutual understanding of the guidelines for negotiation, it could be impossible to even discuss the fundamental problems, let alone agree on them. Guidelines are often split into several parts. Participants This is an important consideration. It is very important to understand who will be participating on either side prior to the negotiations commencing. Scheduling The time the negotiations will take must be planned and agreed with all participants. If this isn’t discussed from the very beginning, then unexpected demands or requests for postponements could arise, or the negotiation process could be interrupted at a particularly inopportune moment for one of the sides. Place and time Experience shows that negotiations on one aspect alone – location – can turn out to be fairly complicated in and of themselves. It is a widely held opinion that it is better to negotiate on your own territory. This is undoubtedly true. First, it means that it is always possible for you to quickly consult with the individuals on your side who will be affected by issues under discussion. Second, you can do other business in parallel. Third, you are surrounded by your own ‘home comforts’, while the opponent is psychologically aware that they are speaking to the ‘host’ and not vice versa. Not to mention the economics of finances and time. There are, however, pluses to negotiating on an away ground. It gives you the opportunity to focus on the negotiations alone, whereas there will undoubtedly be more distractions on your home turf. You will always be able to withhold information, falling back on the pretext that you don’t have it on you at the time. You also stand a higher chance of meeting directly with managers. Finally, the time spent on organisational issues and financial expenses always falls to the ‘host’.

Every negotiator must face one very pressing question: how to approach the opponent – as an enemy or an ally? I often hear sales managers talking about ‘beating the buyer’ or ‘storming the fortress’. Thoughts like these translate into relationships. If we approach negotiations like war, then war is precisely what awaits. For this reason, I am categorically against calling my colleagues in sales and purchasing departments ‘warriors’ or ‘soldiers’. In Russia we have an old saying: ‘As you name a boat, so it will sail.’

Always treat your opponent with respect In any situation, no matter what happens, the recipe for success is respect for the opponent. Respect is the only way. If you negotiate in a negative mindset, you can be sure that your opponent will intuitively pick up on this negative. Which is why the only right decision is to take a respectful approach to the opponent. Maximum respect inspires mutual respect.

Question 5: What will I be happy with? Knowing the answer to this question is crucial. If we don’t, then we aren’t fighting for a benefit, but for our ambitions. We have already seen what negotiations like these lead to. Prior to negotiations, don’t forget to construct a polygon of interests. Draw your red line. Figure out your desired position, and from there find your stated one. When constructing this polygon, I recommend that you let your past experience guide you, but don’t forget any future concerns. With a polygon of interests, you will always be able to determine whether what you are being offered (or what you are offering) is in your interest or not. Having this polygon does not, however, necessarily mean being the first to put forward a proposal, nor that you are under any obligation to offer much. It simply means being prepared to fight for a benefit, not for your ambitions. And to negotiate from a rational standpoint.

Question 6: What will I do if I get a ‘yes’? This question may sound completely redundant: a ‘yes’ means we’ve reached our goal! What else is there to do but crack out the champagne? However, if you don’t look for the right answer to this question when creating your negotiation roadmap, your success will be short-lived, or a one-time-only event. It may even leave question marks over the matter at hand, in spite of the positive response. It’s hard to predict how the results of these negotiations will be codified, or how this positive response might be formulated (for example, there may be different interpretations on certain points), etc. For this reason, the answer to this question needs to be quite meaty. First, your answer should anticipate any possible versions of the proposed solution that either give rise to different interpretations or that don’t completely resolve the problem. You will need to prepare a route for further work from each of these versions. Second, a positive response to the issue under discussion is a good reason to take even the most cursory of glances into the near future: what else can you get from the opponent now that you appear to have established a relationship? Might there be a way of aligning your shared interests even further, in view of your mutual benefit? Third, a positive response in these negotiations will inevitably have some sort of impact on your competitors’ position, and they will naturally start to respond in some way. What might this response be? What will you need to do to prevent it from affecting your relationship with your new partner? Once you have noted all of these possible consequences of this positive response on your roadmap, you need to anticipate what action you will need to take to avert any negative consequences and to reinforce the likelihood of a positive outcome. Then you will need to plan a ‘start-up phase’ for these actions that you can begin to implement directly from these negotiations.

Question 7: What will I do if I get a ‘no’?

You can only fire out questions point-blank, make threats or, indeed, hold complex negotiations on one condition: you truly know what you will do if you don’t reach an agreement, if none of the options proposed and discussed fall within your polygon of interests, or if you’re being pushed below your red line. People generally neglect to answer this question, leading them to either make concessions or get more aggressive at the negotiating table. Amidst the turbulence of the mid-nineties in Russia, gas pistols and firearms started to gain in popularity. Getting a licence for these weapons was easy, and I, like many others, took a one-day course and got the licence. I was still choosing which pistol to buy when one evening I got into a very interesting conversation with my neighbour on the stairwell. My neighbour, Edward Viktorovich Dachevskiy, is an Air Force colonel who has gone through fire and water in his life. He asked me: ‘Igor, would you be able to shoot someone?’ This question daunted me. Stalling, I gave him a mumbled response. ‘Remember: only get out a weapon if you’re truly prepared to use it. Otherwise it’ll get turned on you.’

Remember: negotiations cannot be won or lost. But what you can – and must – do is know where you currently are in the negotiation process, and what steps you need to take next.