Reasonable Goals

Reasonable Goals

Reasonable goals are important in any negotiation, and it’s the commander’s job to set them. But that begs the question: When was the last time you worked for a reasonable boss?

Hey, no comment. I got my pension to think about.

Seriously, while there are always exceptions, even the best negotiator is going to have to rely more on luck than on skills to reach an unreasonable goal.

You can’t set a reasonable goal unless you know what you want. The more specific you are about your wants before you go into the negotiations, the better you’ll do in the end. Think of it this way: If your goal is just to get the guy off the bridge . . . well, let’s not go there.

Setting the specific goal is part of knowing the territory; you can’t do it unless you’ve scouted out the area and done your homework. If you haven’t, then you aren’t in a position to negotiate—and position is everything, as we’ll discuss in the next chapter. But let me just beat the reasonable boss thing to death. It’s important in a negotiation to be realistic beforehand as you set your goals. If you’re trying to buy a new house, it makes no sense to think you’re going to negotiate the price down to a hundredth of the asking price.

Some people try and use unreasonableness as a negotiating tactic. Personally, I’ve never found that a very powerful tool. It immediately establishes that the other side is the only pro in the room, putting the negotiating team on uneven grounds. Worse, it’s pretty easy to deflect from the other side. (We’ll also talk about that in Chapter 7, “Is He a Psycho, or Just a Maniac?”) But look, if it works for you, that’s cool. Just remember there’s a difference between whacked-out as a tactic and whacked-out as a goal. Use any tactic you want, but keep your goal realistic or you won’t achieve it.

Summing Up

Easy stuff, right?

There are three basic jobs on a negotiating team, ideally handled by three different people: negotiator, scribe, and commander.

One-man teams should build in ways to separate the roles.

Start by thinking about the roles differently.

Adopt strategies to separate the different processes as much as practical.

Chapter 2: Position Is Everything

Before you negotiate, be mentally and physically in the right place.

Snipers arriving on a scene always try to establish a position where they have a good line of sight into the crisis area. This isn’t rocket science: You can’t hit something you can’t see. The trick is finding that ideal place without exposing yourself to overwhelming danger.

Negotiators do the same thing. A good negotiator chooses the best spot to negotiate from.

You’re thinking, Hey, Dominick, you made a metaphor. Wow, what a poet.

Yeah, I’m a regular Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

I do mean it metaphorically; we should always negotiate from a metaphoric position of strength. That happens not only if we do all our homework beforehand, but if we know every possible argument the other side will use, have an answer to every question it will raise, and have a solution that is so win-win even George Steinbrenner couldn’t turn it down. Negotiators should always go into a session holding all the cards . . . just as guys should always remember their wedding anniversary and Valentine’s Day.

Whether that’s possible or not I leave to your own experience.

I mean position literally. Where you stand, how you sit, and like that.

You have to be comfortable to negotiate. Physical and mental comfort as you negotiate is vastly underrated as a strategy. A hostage negotiator needs to have a place where he or she is secure from attack and has a means of communicating with the hostage taker as well as the scene commander. Nearly as important, the negotiator needs to be in a place comfortable to operate in—which means simple things like being able to sit in a decent chair or not having to go too far when nature calls.

He or she also has to be in a good mental position to negotiate. Hostage negotiations are very intense forms of negotiation; they take immense concentration under huge stress. That’s why our ideal teams have someone to handle the dreck work that comes up. It’s also why a coach and backup negotiator is always alongside to keep your energy and ego up when they sag.

Most negotiations aren’t life and death. Still, you have to be able to concentrate. For most of us, that starts with being relatively comfortable. That’s commonsense stuff. Don’t try to negotiate the purchase of a new house the day after your father’s funeral. Wear clothes that make you comfortable—but not something that’s going to make you feel inferior. And don’t wear tight new shoes when you enter the boss’s office to ask for a raise.