Charming Negotiator is Charming


“Charming People Make Better Negotiators.”

I know.  It is a horrible realization.

In addition to getting The Girl, having the Best Car & being the Nicest Person you’ve ever met, those charming kids get to be better negotiators.


Well, because charming people are charming.

You want to talk to them; you want to spend time with them; you even want to be them, much as you might not always want to admit it.

When negotiating with a charming counterpart, you can end up feeling like the odd kid out, working twice as hard and getting half as far.

Basically, you end up being Eric Stoltz at the beginning of Some Kind of Wonderful: a good guy that ain’t gonna win.

by polymath via

But only if you are totally unaware of your surroundings and unwilling to value your interests over your ability to make the other kid laugh at your awkward jokes.

Here is how to negotiate with a charmer and win:

1.  What are you interested in?

I know I talk about interests as if they are going out of style; I am intentionally trying to beat you over the head with the idea that what you are interested in is the most important part of the negotiation.

I do this because it is the easiest thing to forget.

No matter how smart you are, how prepared you are, or how many times you’ve negotiated in the past, you will eventually try to negotiate from a place of fear.

The best thing you can do to help yourself in this situation is to make it a regular practice to set aside 30 seconds in each step of a negotiation and ask yourself, “What are my interests?  Does this serve my interests?”

Knowing what you’re interests are and if you’re staying true to them can help you resist that gravitational force of charm.

2. Don’t agree.

In negotiations, particularly those that happen over an extended period of time, a natural tendency is to agree to all of the little details that lead up to be the “Big Deal” in an effort to get to the heart of what you’re most anxious about.

Who cares who pays for shipping?  So long as you get what you want in the end.  Right?


Does Barry Manilow know that you raid his wardrobe?

Getting those little things off the table quickly can do two potentially destructive things to your negotiation: (1) it’ll leave you less to negotiate with and (2) it can leave you carrying more of the load than you intended.

A negotiation is not just the end result. It is a process, and like all good processes there are many jobs to divvy up.

By agreeing early and often to the smaller details, you can end up at the “Big Deal” further away from your interests than where you started: because you’ve taken on all of the “smaller” details,  you now have 542 steps to get to where you want to be, instead of the 42 steps you started with.

Those smaller details can be excellent bargaining chips; who pays for shipping might appear to be a minor detail in the beginning and a much larger issue later on in the negotiation.

Instead, call those details out, list them off and save them for later, when you know more about what you’re doing.

3.  Repeat after me.

With charmers, speed is their greatest advantage: in, out, and on their way.

Talking to a charmer, your initial reaction is thrill (“they’re talking to me!”), followed by a need to impress (“OMG, she’ll totally love my hedgehog anecdote!”) and a desire to appease (“if I say yes now, she’ll say yes later”).

While natural, these reactions are completely unhelpful.

If you not believe me, please go watch any of Mr. John Hughes’ films: giving in early doesn’t help, it only makes you Molly Ringwald.

What to do?

Repeat what they are saying.

Often times people say ridiculously stupid things that we don’t immediately recognize as ridiculously stupid.  Repeating what is said (and agreed to) can help on a number of levels:

>>You buy yourself time to think.  A few seconds is sometimes all it takes for you to realize, “NO!  I do not want to do that thing you just said!”

>>Hearing yourself say something can often put the idea in a new perspective. Having to say the words out loud requires a bit more thought than saying, “Sure!”  You are your best counsel; listen.

>>You make them hear what they’re saying. Charmers don’t always mean to be jerks; hearing you say what they’re asking from you might help them realize that the request is too broad or demanding.

Pay attention to the basics of negotiation and no one can best you.

Not even That Guy.

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