The three crucial variables for negotiating anything.
In every negotiation, Cohen says, there are three crucial variables: power, time, and information. You can hold the best hand at the table, but if you lack these three things, you’re still going to lose.
- Power is the ability to get things done. If you can generate competition, for example, you’ll have more power during negotiations. Power also comes from perceived expertise or legitimacy (”she’s a famous financial guru, so she must be right”), empathy (understanding the other person’s side), precedence (”this is how it’s always been done”), persistence, attitude, and persuasion. Your side can gain negotiating power through unity — by having every participant committed to the same goal. Most of all, you gain power when you’re willing to take calculated risks (not stupid risks).
- Time also plays a role. In negotiations, the side with the most time generally has an advantage. Patience pays. No matter how pressed you are, you should always keep your cool, maintaining an appearance of calm. “Your deadline is of your own making,” Cohen writes. Don’t ignore deadlines, but don’t follow them blindly, either.
- Information is the third crucial variable in negotiations. The more you know, the better your position. Do your research before negotiations begin. And during negotiations, act on whatever new info comes to light. Cohen is especially keen on picking up unintentional cues from the other side. Their responses, their questions, and their attitude all convey valuable information.