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Get What You Want: The One Thing Often Overlooked in Negotiation Strategy


Negotiation experts (yep, that’s a thing) at Harvard and the FBI have long-tested strategies for bridging the gap between what you want and what the other person is willing to give.  There are lots of important steps to consider, but when we spoke to our contributors, there was one thing we heard that they noted was often overlooked – where the ‘other’ was coming from. It’s a skill that parents often need to flex when trying to support emotionally dysregulated children, and one that moms in particular are innately wired to do well – women have an inherited difference in cognitive style, which emphasizes empathizing.

What To Do (Bites)

  1. Break out your best empathy before you even start the dialogue

    Negotiation always involves another side. In preparation, consider their interests. What do they care about? Where will they lean in? What will get their backs up? How do they like to be treated? How do they negotiate or get what they want? This doesn’t mean alter what matters to you, rather know how they think so you can anticipate where potential clashes exist between your wants and theirs. This will also help you think of possibilities that allow you to get what you want and also address their interests. The best ‘deals’ maximize value for both sides.

  2. If you believe you can manage others’ decisions with your logic, you’ll adopt a suboptimal strategy

    Humans need to feel a sense of legitimacy – that their perspective has some merit combined with a desire to align on something that is fair to both/all. Consider how what you’re negotiating makes sense from their perspective (not just yours) and develop your negotiation strategy appropriately.

  3. Create value by creating options, including those they value

    This is where the negotiation resides. What else matters to you? What matters to them, where can you flex a bit and give the other person something that they value? Hint – think beyond money (see below). Value often doesn’t have a price tag.


  1. REALLY listen to what the other person values. We cannot emphasize this one enough. You should know their interests in advance and consider it in your ask. In the negotiation, state what you want, then sit back and let the other person show their hand and listen for their ‘what matters.’ Look for things like time, flexibility, reputation.

  2. Paraphrase their “what matters”: Your aim is to get them to think “now, here’s someone who gets how tough it is for me to say yes.” If they think you’re in this conversation with a common understanding of and appreciation for what’s at stake, that’s a powerful starting point. You’re kicking off the conversation as an ally.

  3. Find the combination that gets you to your 5 star wants. Your 5 star wants are the things that absolutely matter most to you, that you absolutely can’t give up. So, where is the wiggle? Consider: What is a small bend on your part that lets the other person walk away feeling like they’ve won too? Can you give something that helps justify the agreement you two have aligned on (that can help them sell others or save face)?

Hope you found this helpful! Got a topic you’d like some wisdom on? Let us know.


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