“Mark, you teach the preparation of development of strategy and efficient process in negotiations, but then in the same class you talk about tactical negotiation warfare and learning how to grind in a negotiation. The two seem counter to each other and I’m not sure I buy in to the need to learn to grind. My expectation is that as I approach the negotiation logically, so will others and therefore there will be no need for anything other than a logical discussion that results in the most logical outcome.” That’s the criticism I received in a class a few weeks ago. It’s a good question. Because, if you think about it, how could I possibly say that you should approach your negotiation with proper process and develop a sound framework for negotiation, and in the same class teach you the grinding negotiation skills too? Aren’t they mutually exclusive?
So many negotiation experts will tell you that all you need is a solid foundation in strategy and logic and then the power of your logic should win out in a negotiation. And that as such, there’s no need to know how to duck and weave in a negotiation because nobody is throwing punches that aren’t backed by logic.
The big issue with this argument is that it is in and of itself illogical because it does not take into account the person behind any negotiation. It presupposes that people will be logical. It assumes that emotion is removed from the discussion and that it relies purely on a discussion of risk and numbers. It would be like telling the world series of poker final table to play the cards and the numbers only and to ignore the players.
This argument is very much like the efficient market hypothesis in modern portfolio theory (remember from your business classes) in the the stock market. The efficient market hypothesis says that the market is efficient and logical. This is, or course, great to say in text books but pretty useless in the market. Guys like George Soros have been pulling money through the giant hole in the efficient market hypothesis for years. Good negotiators are the same way.
The unfortunate truth of negotiation is that there is no such thing as a completely logical argument. Great negotiators understand that in a perfect world, we’d love for things to be controlled by logic and for everyone to be aligned on that logic. But, it’s not a perfect world. That’s why you need to learn to ask for more than you expect to get. You need to learn to squeeze. You need to learn to apply pressure. You need to learn to nibble. You need to learn to take money off the table when you can. You need to learn to grind.