Charm Your Way to Being a Good Negotiator

I was sitting with a truly beautiful young woman after a negotiation presentation to a local bar association listening to her tale about a difficult opposing counsel.

He was obstructive, unpleasant, devious. And he wouldn’t return her telephone calls.

Have you ever met face-to-face, I asked.

No, she said. He practices in Los Angeles and I’m in Orange County.

Well for heavens’ sakes have lunch with him, I replied. You’re a beautiful woman. If he orders drinks, demur. Sip iced tea. Ask him lots of questions. Be curious. Be authentic. Be charming.

Admittedly, I was advising this young lawyer to take unfair advantage of another lawyer. He, on the other hand, appeared to be taking undue advantage of her youth and inexperience.

The super secret of all great negotiators is to use what you’ve got, be genuinely curious and authentically yourself.

Had my young inquirer told me she was uncomfortable being anything other than aggressive with opposing counsel, I would have tailored my advice.

As it was, she found it easy to make the lunch date, sip lemonade while her opponent had three-martinis, and to get  what she wanted – the settlement of a case that had become more difficult than her adversary yet knew.

We’re Not All Beautiful, But We Can All Be Charming

The best advice I was ever given as a litigator attempting to pry the facts of a dispute out of hostile parties was to “be curious.”

Everyone responds favorably to another human being who is taking a lively interest in their life, their pursuits, their challenges, their fears, their desires, their preferences, and their priorities.

The worst attitude we can bring to any negotiation is one that casts us in the role of an expert in what the other person wants.

Yes, we’ve studied, done our homework, made assumptions and predictions, have our spreadsheets, executive summaries and detailed strategies in hand.

All of that high-level intellectual work having been accomplished, the most powerful statement we can make is a question.

What do you want?

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