How to get ahead in negotiations

by Tracy Hoobyar

I was on the phone the other day talking to someone and when I hung up my daughter mentioned how good I am at negotiations.  I thanked her and we went about our day, but I couldn’t stop thinking of what she had said.  The fact that she recognized that, and thought enough to say something about it, really struck me.

Since I try to take advantage of opportunities like that to teach my kids something (yes, they are older, but they can still learn from their dear old mom, right?) I spent some time trying to figure out what I do, or say, or think that makes me better at negotiating than someone else might be.

And it hit me.

I have more choices than the other person.

Okay, so what does that mean exactly?  In NLP terms I’m referring to the presupposition of requisite variety.  That’s a fancy way of saying the person with the most choices wins.

So let’s take a look at this for a second and see why that might hold true.  Let’s say I am talking with someone about renting a space for a new training I’m holding.  They have a certain dollar amount they are requiring and that is all they are able to accept.  In their eyes, they will either win or lose based on collecting that dollar amount.  Period. End of story.

Suppose they are asking more than I would like to pay.  So, without any other options, I turn them down.  It doesn’t’ bother me because I can go somewhere else.  I can readjust my plan and make sure the end result works for me.  I don’t get emotional because I had very little, if any, investment in the outcome of the conversation.  Yes, I need a place for my training.  If you look around, there are lots of places to hold events.  I can go anywhere.  I’m pretty sure locations are easier to come by than events.

On the other hand, they may even have an emotional response to winning or losing, simply because they have nowhere to go after I say no to their amount.  They can hope another event comes along, but they don’t really know.  They have no way of being sure they will find another customer to fill that date.  They have to hope that there will be someone else, and that someone will be willing to pay their set fee.  Without any room to negotiate, or make other choices, the location is set to lose.

Let’s look at another example.  Teenagers.  Dealing with teenagers is often a challenge.  Even the best teenagers can be a handful.  No matter how sweet they are, they still have times where they exercise their independence, testing those limits just a bit more than usual.

Imagine dealing with a teenager and being totally open to possible ways of reaching your intended goal.

Suppose you are asking them to do the dishes.  I don’t know about the teenagers in your life. The teenagers in my life do not love being asked to do the dishes.  It amazes me how much passion a simple chore can ignite in a person.

Anyway, suppose you ask them to do the dishes and they protest.  They are busy/tired/bored/don’t feel like it/fill in the blank with the excuse of the day.  Whatever the reason their answer is no.

In one instance you can get mad at being told no, maybe raise your voice, and insist on the dishes being done right now.  And they better be nice about it.

How pleasant do you think the next 30 minutes to several hours is going to be with that teenager?  There has been yelling, struggling and most definitely a winner and a loser.  And most likely neither of you are very happy at the moment.

Now imagine you ask that same teenager to do the dishes sometime in the next hour.  That is your request.  That is your only request.  They may grumble about it a bit, but they will have fewer logical arguments to make against it.

If you are willing to accept getting the dishes done by an hour from the time you request it, and you don’t care if they smile or frown, listen to music or do it in silence, load the dishwasher first or do the hand wash dishes, you are giving them the sense of being in control, all while still getting your initial request satisfied.

Perhaps instead of asking for the dishes to be done you ask them to either do the dishes, vacuum or do a load of laundry for the household.  This gives them three ways of doing what you asked, while they still get to feel like they have a choice. Do you see how this can lessen the tension and get you what you want more often?  It’s a great way of hearing “Okay mom” more often than “I don’t want to!”

My dad used to call this “having more clicks on the dial.” He was referring to the old time televisions that we had to get up and change the channel on manually.  Whoever had the most channels was the one who would be more likely to find something to watch on tv.  Makes sense, right?

The same holds true in negotiations.  Whoever has more solutions that they would consider success is more likely to feel successful at the end of the day.

I wonder if you have tried this in any of your negotiations.  Can you think of a time when having more options available to you has meant you were able to be more successful than the other person you were dealing with?

If you want to check out more about the NLP Presuppositions you can read a list of all of them at  This has a great list and brief explanations about each of the 13 primary presuppositions.

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