Kawthar Kazim, Director of Human Resource & Development - Roads & Transport Authority, Dubai

I enjoyed the whole presentation. Jim Thomas is a very knowledgeable man who is always straight to the point with his practical experience.


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Home News Overcome The Wave of Bad Negotiators with Jim Thomas

Overcome The Wave of Bad Negotiators with Jim Thomas

We normally tend to associate negotiations with business activities, career advancements and various important purchases. We rarely realise however, that negotiations impact our daily activities where arguments and bargaining happen in every possible way, whether we’re buying that smartphone we have always wanted, or negotiating that much-needed pay raise with the boss.

Jim Thomas, the man who revealed the sad truth behind American (Bad) Negotiators in his bestselling book, Negotiate to Win in 2005, has proven that negotiation doesn’t have to be painful; it’s not as bad as what most negotiators thinks. His negotiating strategies were so good in fact, that Negotiate to Win was rated one of the Best Business Books of 2006 by Strategy & Business Magazine.

Jim predicts how the haggling in our daily lives will become even more pronounced with the rise of globalism and new management and work trends. Read on for Jim’s tips on great negotiation, shared in an interview with NEWSWEEK Magazine’s Jennifer Barrett.


NEWSWEEK: What’s the biggest mistake people make when negotiating?

Jim Thomas: I think we assume that if we are generous the other side will reciprocate with generosity. Historically, if we gave someone something, they were in our debt. They felt a social obligation to reciprocate. Maybe today with friends and family, that still does work. But, generally, ‘you owe me one’ counts for nothing today. Maybe it is shrinking margins or commercial desperation… As margins get tinier, there’s more pressure to maximize them. Suddenly, negotiating an extra quarter point or half point can be the critical difference between being successful and being underwater. But our cultural instincts have not caught up yet to the seriousness of the matter.

Why are Americans such bad negotiators?

There hasn’t been any real research done in this area, so it’s not entirely clear as to why. There have probably been about 500 theories raised— everything from impatience to fear of conflict to fear of failure to geographic isolation, to our Puritan ethic… The reason I mention it in the book is because Americans find the whole topic so stressful. I can explain to them, this is why it’s so uncomfortable: there is no cultural hook to hang it on. [They’ve] been taught that negotiating is déclassé.

Is this natural reluctance to bargain unique to Americans?

I think it’s unique to Western societies: The United States and Western Europe and maybe Australia. Germans are awful. They don’t bargain. The French are a little more tolerant. It’s further south, in Greece and Turkey, where it comes back to life…My mandate is not to figure out why [Westerners] are bad negotiators but to help them get over it. I don’t expect everyone to love to negotiate, but when it does come around, having a formula helps you to overcome your anxiety.

What’s the most important thing to keep in mind when negotiating?

Remember to trade concessions. That’s crucial in terms of the other side saving face. Get in the habit of saying: `Okay, but if I agree to this, I need this from you,’ or ‘If I agree, then I can’t do this other thing we talked about.’ Another important thing is not to put the final price on the table at the beginning of the negotiation. Why not put out a higher price? Some people worry that you’re lying if you ask for more than you expect. But if you say `I would like X amount’ even if you don’t expect to get it, that’s being honest. Don’t say: `I have to have this. This is the bottom line.’ That will hurt your credibility, especially if you back down eventually.

It’s also important to treat all the issues as a package… If you close the door on each part of the negotiation, you are bleeding leverage all the way along. You should be able to reopen any issue until you get an overall package in place that you are happy with. Our instinct is to settle point one then moves to point two. But that’s dangerous. A lot of the rules are counterintuitive—for us, anyway. But once you practice a few times, it becomes more comfortable.

Can you give examples of transactions that Americans often don’t realize are negotiable?

Typically, you can negotiate with big-ticket items that cost a few hundred dollars or more—or if you know someone is working on a commission. I wouldn’t necessarily go after the price of the item but ask for something else to be thrown in… I had not entirely committed to a [pricey] suit at [a high-end department store]. I said, I’ll take it if you throw in the shirt and tie. They said we’ll do the shirt. It’s good to start high then you can drop back.



Article Published by Kexxel Group

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Original article shared on Common Ground Seminars.