I Have Something To Tell You

One of the harder things to figure out during a negotiation is when to share information and what information to share.

I regularly insist that negotiation is just problem solving in a different context and you need to involve your counterpart to find a solution.   That doesn’t mean that I think the other side is completely trustworthy and should be treated as if they were on your team.  They aren’t; they are on their own team.

And while approaching a negotiation as a problem solving puzzle will inevitably offer you more solutions than a contentious battle of Who Gets More Stuff, the approach can be taken too far.  One of the ways you can take it too far is by sharing way too much information, or sharing information too early.

So how do you know when to share or what to share or even how to share?

You’re going to hate this answer: It depends.

I do have some ideas on how you can figure it out for yourself, though, in your particular negotiation.

This is the first in a three part series about sharing information and how to figure out if and when to do it.  Being as it is the first, I thought we’d start at the beginning:

Know what kind of person you’re dealing with.

What does the person you’re negotiating with do with information?

Do they share it, use it against you later, use it to get things out of others?  There is one easy way to find out: share something with them and see what happens.

Pick something early in the relationship that you’d feel comfortable sharing with your grandmother.  Give that information to your counterpart and see what happens.

I usually pick information that is going to limit what they want to do in one way or another; I tell them about our budgetary cycle, say I’m not interested in a particular product, etc.  Then I see what happens.  It usually only takes a few minutes.  Either they ignore what I’ve just said or they ask more questions.

Someone who ignores you isn’t going to use information you give them wisely.  You will have to repeat yourself through out your interaction with them.  They are waiting to speak when you talk.  Sharing subtle or nuanced information with them will be fruitless and frustrating.

Someone who asks questions is listening to you; they’re taking information in and figuring out what to make of it.  Everything you say to this person is information they analyze.  This, of course, is a double edged sword, but it can help you be more cognizant about exactly what you share with that person and when.

Other things to be aware of:

  • if the information gets back to you through someone else (thus why you’d want it to be something you’d share with your Grandmother);
  • if they use the information to pressure you about something else; or
  • if they’re overly appreciative about the information (it’s like a date who’s overly eager; proceed with caution).

The most important part of about figuring out who you’re dealing with is to give their response the right amount of credence.  Sometimes people have off days and come off as uninterested; sometimes people aren’t nearly as engaged during a project as they were when it started.  The best thing you can do is to acknowledge what happens, file it away and remember it when dealing with the person.

Next in the series: Know what kind of negotiation you’re having.

Categories: Negotiation Strategy

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