Negotiating is a useful skill in all aspects of life. Negotiating effectively in a SHTF scenario may be the difference between life and death. Whether haggling over the price of your next vehicle, home-repair service, that last box of shells, or something even more important, you want to make sure you walk away from the exchange, and walk away satisfied with the outcome. Below I present some tips to help in this regard.
As with all serious endeavours, careful planning and preparation prior to the affair, can pay healthy dividends. Actively negotiating is typically an exciting, stressful experience. Great value can hang in the balance, and how successful you are at negotiating, can determine if you are successful in obtaining your goal. The best preparations to make for a negotiation is to spend some time thinking about the matter, what you desire for the outcome, what you’re willing to pay to get it, and how the affair might progress. This is merely your opinion, so you should remain flexible. There’s no telling how things will play out, until they play out. Being nimble, agile, and prepared, will give you an advantage over those that are not.
- Know what it is you want. Exactly. “I would like…; it would be nice …” are not helpful. Right now, you need to form a very concrete image in your head of what it is you want from this negotiation. What would equal success for you? If you are purchasing (selling) an item, determine what price you would like. Determine first what number you would like, then decide an upper and lower limit. This may take multiple forms– bartered goods, currency, traded labor, or something else. Know your limits before you enter into the negotiation. Also know how firm your limits are. Lifesaving medicine may cost more than you would like to pay for it, or you may not mind helping a neighbor for longer than you planned.
Spend some time thinking hard about this. You want a firm idea in your mind before entering the stressful act of negotiating. Weigh each option’s merits when you are calm and rational, not when trying to think on your feet. You will be too distracted by the actual negotiations to make a clear decision. Think about multiple possible outcomes beforehand, so you are operating from familiar turf when actively negotiating.
- Mentally prepare for a variety of possible outcomes. You may get what you want very easily. You may find negotiations frustrating and difficult. Being mentally prepared for either exchange will give you an advantage, help you to remain calm, and think clearly during a fluid situation.
Especially in a stressful scenario (TEOTWAWKI), the situation may devolve or escalate very quickly. Your counter party may become hostile, aggressive, or recalcitrant. Negotiations can sour quickly. If you’re swapping some old tools with a neighbor everything is likely to go smoothly, and require little preparation. If, however, you are under duress during the negotiations, it is best to anticipate the worst possible outcome and prepare for it. This means prepare physically (possibly with supplies of extra barter items, such as weapons) as well as mentally (to defend yourself/others, if needed). If the rule of law has broken down, you should assume pleasantries will, as well. You may be fortunate, but it is best to be prepared for a variety of potential scenarios.
- Kenny Rogers Rule. Know when to walk away. Sometimes the best solution is to leave the negotiating table. This is especially pertinent whenever stress is high. People often make poor decisions under stress. (This can be used to your advantage as well.) Don’t let this happen to you. Recognize when your position has been weakened and when you need to step away to regroup. Retreat does not equal defeat. Variables may change the dynamics of the situation and require re-evaluation. Don’t let yourself be taken advantage of. Always negotiate on your own terms. Bluffing can backfire. Your position will be significantly weakened if you have to come back to the negotiating table after you have been exposed.
- Know thine enemy. Learn as much about your counter party as you can. Information is knowledge; knowledge is power. If you’re negotiating for something in abundance or easily obtained, things will be very different than if you are bartering for scarce and valuable commodities. Knowing the fair market value your counter party places on your/their commodity and having an honest assessment of that, is vital. You will look the fool if haggling over something of little value or use to the other person. We’ve all had the experience of seeing an outrageous price on an item because the seller is attaching some emotional value. Your position during the negotiating will hinge in part on the image you present. If you appear incompetent or irrational, you will be treated accordingly. If you appear calm and calculating, you will be treated differently.
Know the weaknesses and strengths of your counter party, watch their body language, and analyze their choice of words when discussing matters. They may inadvertently leave clues about their position, emotions, or situation that you can exploit. Think aggressively, but act gently.
- Close the deal. Upon reaching an agreement of terms, you should enact the agreement as quickly as possible. Do not allow time for people to change their minds, search for a better offer, or reconsider the deal. If exchanging for an item or product, take (steps towards) possession immediately. Written contracts are of little value outside the rule of law. Ask for your bartered service first. Make this part of the negotiation. (You fix my roof, and then I’ll fix your car.)
Ensuring all parties are satisfied after the deal is a good idea as well. Whether personal, business, work-related, garage sale transactions, or bartering in TEOTWAWK, having both sides happy at the conclusion of the deal is not only a measure of success but an important Post Script should we find ourselves in challenging times. Having a positive reputation and wide trading circle may prove priceless.
Not every rule is applicable to every situation. However, there are some techniques that have proven successful in the business world and are useful to everyday negotiations, as well. Some tactics may be combined for increased effectiveness, while some may work against each other in concert. Review these ideas when preparing for your negotiation, and try to choose a few that may work together to generate multiple vectors to approach the negotiation. Try to come up with multiple options to answer different scenarios. If you have thought through some likely scenarios or objections in advance, you will be calmer and better able to think on your feet.
- You will catch more flies with Honey than with Vinegar: Do you enjoy dealing with someone who is gruff, short-tempered, and crude? Do you leave an establishment with a positive impression after being thanked and given well wishes? You will likely find peaceful negotiations much more fruitful and easier going than acrimonious relations. Not only will this impact future dealings, but the emotional cost to the negotiations should not be discounted. You are more apt to receive concessions if your counter party has a positive opinion of you. Your leverage will go further, your demands seem more reasonable, and your ideas given more weight. There may be times you have to act the loud-mouthed blow-hard, but that should not be your default condition. Engage your party; make small talk; and create an environment for them to relax and feel comfortable in. Then begin your negotiations. Are you likely to charge your friend full-price or entertain a discount?
- Aim High. Start beyond your desired target, with the expectation of offering some concessions. If you don’t have to, great! Dealerships mark their prices up, expecting to be negotiated down. You should do the same. The worst you can do is get a better price than anticipated.
- Be realistic. Coming in from far out in left-field, you are more likely to alienate your counter party than get a good deal. If you are offered 10-cents on the fair-dollar-value for your item, are you likely to negotiate further in good faith?
- Image matters. You are mentally prepared for this exchange, have researched comparable prices from multiple sources, and are serious about this deal. From the moment you enter the room, your body language should show it. From dress to demeanor, looking the part will speak volumes for you. Maybe it’s the gear you bring (to haul your prize home), or a note-sheet with stat’s and pricing written down, or a pre-written check (a great trick for buying a car). Presenting a prepared image shows you mean business. Without saying a word, you say quite a bit.
- Watch Body Language. Some study may be warranted (and beyond the scope of this article). Most people don’t realize they do it, never mind how to control or use it. Likewise, don’t forget to check yours. Be firm and resolute but not confrontational. Don’t cross your arms over your chest; keep them in your pockets, if you are nervous.
- Flinch at the first price. This can be done overtly (You want HOW MUCH?!?!?!), or it can be done demurely (ask for them to repeat the number, while writing it down on your aforementioned crib-sheet). The exercise is designed to create question in your counter party’s mind. This will destabilize them, and make them question their offer. Speak little afterwards (appear deep in thought). Maybe you’re comparing their price. Maybe you’re trying to get your head around the number., The point is to make them wonder what you’re thinking. Your initial reaction can give them an idea (if you react loudly), or it may not (if you react calmly), and neither one may be your true feeling. Either way, you are giving yourself a few moments to collect your thoughts and consider your rebuttal, while making their head swim with possibilities. Giving you an advantage!
- Saying less is more. Often times, the less you say, the better. You are less likely to divulge information to your counter party. People will often prattle on when nervous, and can leak clues to the listener’s advantage. Silence at certain times can be uncomfortable. Use it to your advantage.
- Ask open ended questions. Let your counter party do the talking. Watch for body language and verbal queues. Phrase your questions so they cannot be easily answered with a “yes” or “no”. Ask “why” or “how”, to give the other person a chance to speak, then analyze their response. “What would you do in my shoes…?”
- Be clear with your demands. Say “I will accept $100.” Do not say “I would like to get around $100…” If you are flexible you’d take $90, so aim high to give yourself room to negotiate.
- Ask for a concession when giving one. I’ll take $95, if I could get a couple jars of that blueberry jam you made last week? I can give you that price for cash, but not credit/debit card.
- Prepare multiple offerings and options to present during negotiations in case your initial offer is rebuffed. Is there something else you can throw in to sweeten the deal, that is of value to your counter party?
- Add value-added services to your offering to reduce your outlay. A pot-ready chicken is worth more than one you have to butcher yourself. Throw in a coat of paint on that fence for an extra $50 once you’re done fixing it. Would you trade a dozen eggs for a pound of wheat, or 2-dozen for a pound of finely ground flour? There are unlimited combinations when bartering. When you aren’t able to move the price, try to bring other value to the transaction to satisfy both parties amicably.
- Try to hold back a closer or two. Knowing your counter party helps here, especially if they have a fondness for blueberry jam! If you sense you are close to an agreement, pitch something small at them to close the deal. “I’ll come by and deliver it tonight, help hook it up, and show you how to use it. What do you say, do we have a deal?”
- Emotion can provide immense leverage. Mentally preparing can help prevent you from being manipulated into making a decision you normally wouldn’t. This can also be applied to your counter party. If you know they have a soft-spot for something, or maybe they don’t particularly like something. There are almost always emotions attached to negotiations. Learning who/what/why about your counter party (#4, know thine enemy) can provide immense opportunities for leverage. However, be cautious, as this can be perceived as a dirty-trick. I do not recommend risking your reputation lightly, however, as we’re discussing potentially extreme situations, I would be negligent for not touching on the subject.
- Start your negotiations from common ground. This will help endear you to your counter party, and establish the negotiation on friendly territory. It is important to have a solid foundation. Forcing negotiations at a bad time may not work with your chosen tactics, or may be a tactic unto itself.
- Use the person’s name. Hearing your own name triggers deep emotions.
- Ask the other person to help you. People (usually) instinctively like helping others.
- Cooperative vs. Adversarial. Another “Flies and Honey” notion to mention: You want to frame your negotiations in a cooperative manner and paint the situation as mutually beneficial.
- Show the other side how their needs will be met by the agreement.
(Now try combining the above five ideas: I could really use your help, David. This problem with the wildlife attacking our farms, since we’re both taking serious losses, needs to be resolved. If we split guard duty on alternate nights, or early/late shifts, we can cover both of our properties and maybe catch that predator?)
- Avoid Ultimatums. This triggers a “fight-or-flight” response.
Remember that emotions will play a role, but that negotiations are not personal. Be respectful. Try not to take anything personally.
Lastly, I recommend borrowing some tricks from Pennsylvania Avenue– wear your opponent down with circular arguments, deflect blame, and always leave yourself a back-way out. For example, “I know you need it right away, but it’s not my fault. I can’t make that decision. I’ll have to get back to you tomorrow about that price.”