There are steps you can take to become a great negotiator, but all of your efforts will be fruitless if your foundation is weak. Becoming a great negotiator isn’t about mastering all the techniques and tactics. No singular skill set can make you a great negotiator. That’s because the kind of greatness I am talking about, and the achievement of true success that I teach, is a state of being.

Sure, there are certain negotiating frameworks, techniques and tactics that can be useful, but tactics can only take you so far. Great negotiating isn’t a switch that you can turn on when you sit down at the table and turn off once the deal is done. Authentic Negotiating principles must become enmeshed with the fabric of your personality and belief system. Authenticity needs to become a part of who you are if you are going to have any success applying my philosophy to your negotiations.

Attempting to apply the exhaustive list of negotiating techniques without the underlying principles of Authentic Negotiating is trying to build a building without first laying the foundation. You might seem like you know what you’re doing. You might have a strong blueprint and feel like your argument is sturdy, but if you’re coming from a place that lets in fear, scarcity, upset, anger or rigidity, you’re doomed to fail no matter how well you can exercise the tactics you’ve learned.

When CDE—a commitment to Clarity of objective, Detachment from outcomes, and Equilibrium of demeanor—is a fundamental part of who you are, you’re able to embody the deeper qualities of successful negotiators. Authenticity and quiet confidence will guide your behavior and decision making at the table, and you will be acting with integrity, from within. Now your techniques take on a different feel. They aren’t manipulative ploys that you need to fear being found out and unraveling your deal, but instead you can present honest in-roads to your objectives.

This all sounds high-minded and idealistic – and I’ll admit, it is, to a degree –but it’s also true, and I speak this way because I believe it. Based on over thirty-years of professional and personal negotiating experience, I have become clear on what leads to success and what doesn’t. In the case of becoming a great negotiator, I have learned from negotiating on behalf of clients and on my own deals but most deeply from my moments of failure.

The master isn’t the master because he’s completed consuming the available knowledge on a topic or practice. He’s a master because his learning is evergreen and sourced from every bit of life. If I’m called a negotiating guru, it’s because I’ve committed my life and career to advancing the thinking around the discipline, and I’m constantly learning, growing and improving as a person and professional.

I think of an illustration I saw once. An entertainer is on stage, masterfully spinning plates on sticks that are balanced on each hand, even one on his chin. The audience is jaw-dropped at the unparalleled, singular talent. Behind him, blocked from the audience’s view is a circuitous trail of shattered plates leading all the way to the stage. The takeaway? Up until the moment before he stepped on that stage, he was always working and learning from each failure.

I’ve failed before by abandoning the state of being I knew I needed to inhabit to succeed.

A couple of years ago, I had ended a tense business relationship and my emotions were still running too high. Someone (who had no firsthand knowledge of me but only a perception painted by his employer) from the company with whom I had parted ways called me several months later. I took the unscheduled call with no preparation.  Still upset and frustrated, I lost it. I got reactive and angry. CDE, CPR, all of my foundational principles sloughed off of me because I didn’t prepare, connect or embrace them as part of my being. There were several compounding factors that completely threw off my state of being, and I realized this upon deeper reflection.

I should have had my assistant reschedule the call. I should have given myself time to decompress and prepare for it. I should have recalled my CPR framework to regain my CDE.

I should have stayed much more connected to a powerful context.

Being a great negotiator starts with honest and rigorous self-evaluation. The hardest part can be getting started. Take my Authentic Negotiating Success Quiz to see how close you are to becoming a great negotiator.

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