Envision a scenario where you’re ravenous and an ardent lover of chocolate. A tempting chocolate bar, exuding an irresistible aroma, is presented before you, igniting a craving in your very soul. The presenter, an expert from The Gap Partnership, R. Brian Denning, poses a tantalising challenge: devour the chocolate now to satiate your immediate hunger, or exercise restraint for a mere 15 minutes and be rewarded with double the indulgence. This scenario isn’t just about chocolate; it’s a masterclass in negotiation, teaching the invaluable skill of delayed gratification. As you battle the urge, with every tick of the clock echoing in the room, the decision looms – immediate satisfaction or a greater reward for patience? The choice is yours.
Now, remember your last, long, grueling, drawn-out negotiation. You are close to agreeing to a deal and the meeting time has almost expired. This is a big opportunity, you don’t want to give up too much value, but you don’t want to lose the deal either, so stress levels are high. Your counterparty preambles that they have another meeting in a few minutes, then asks, ‘do we have a deal?’ How do you react as your heart beats faster, and you visualise time running through an hourglass? If you are like most people, you quickly agree to the deal to reduce your stress level, give a nervous laugh, and smile while shaking hands. Your inner voice asks, ‘Was that the best deal possible, or did I rush into it?’
Both scenarios parallel Dr. Walter Mischel, Ph. D’s Stanford study. He placed 4-year-olds in a room, gave them each a marshmallow and observed who was able to defer satisfaction in lieu of a larger reward in 15 minutes. To determine the lifelong impact of a ‘delaying’ mindset, Dr. Mischel compiled data while keeping in touch with the children in the study for over 40 years. He discovered that ‘delaying’ kids had a higher level of executive function and executive control. The observed ‘delayers’ grew into “adults who were more likely to finish college, have higher incomes, and less likely to become overweight.”
During your negotiations, do you have a difficult time deferring gratification or are you happy with seizing a certain, although less than optimal, outcome? If you are not a ‘delayer’ by nature, Dr. Mischel notes “it is a teachable, learned skill,” which can improve your negotiation outcomes.
The impact of diminishing time can be a powerful lever during negotiations. Your ability to resist the universal ‘Crescendo Effect’ that occurs when you are running out of time is critical to negotiation success. Realise that if you are stressed and emotionally invested when finalising a deal, you will leave value on the table. Remember the other party is as stressed or more stressed than you are. Leverage your counterpart’s stress, signal rejection of their proposals, use silence to enhance time pressures, and keep alert for any non-verbal cues from your counterpart.
Rejection has a profound impact on negotiation. When you reject someone’s proposal(s), their amygdala registers physical pain which is felt on a subconscious level (Sapolsky, 2017). When rejected, the other party will try to reduce their subconscious pain immediately. This rush to gain approval can cause them to make irrational proposals they would not normally extend. Coupling this temporary ‘pain phase’ with silence can yield powerful results. When negotiating, remember to slow down, observe non-verbal cues, and track clusters of non-verbal responses throughout to determine if you are optimising your deal.
How can you communicate rejection one last time to secure the best deal when under pressure from limited time?
- Self-awareness is the first step. Awareness of your stress level, emotions, and a resolve to not agree to a deal before time runs out. Don’t think and talk at the same time.
- Prior to the negotiation, visualise saying ‘no’ when you can say ‘yes.’ Think through your behaviors and how you will act, how your counterparty might react, how you will counter, etc.
- Suppress your ‘fight or flight’ stress response. Smile and keep your eyes on your counterpart. Push your personal stress boundaries in your negotiations. When you can agree to a deal (especially if the other party is extending their hand), say ‘no’ one more time and make another proposal. Consciously shape your behavior to meet your negotiation needs.
- Realise that if the other party is still sitting at the negotiation table, they are still interested. Become confident in your negotiation abilities to maximise the value of your deals.
- Examine your previous negotiations with honest scrutiny to determine hypothetically “how much more could I have achieved if I had not agreed, and instead countered with a creative proposal?”
Have the intestinal fortitude (guts) to say ‘no’ one more time at the end of your next negotiation – it is a low cost and high reward action. Remember to get into the other party’s head with your counterproposal after the ‘no’ to maximise your deal. Manage your negotiation behaviors…and prepare to receive compliments from your onlooking co-workers. I’d wish you good luck, but we don’t rely on luck. We rely on over-preparing and consciously managing our negotiation behaviors to maximise profits.