How to Negotiate Anything and Win

These ancient battle secrets are the key to any modern victory, from business to big-ticket purchases.

How to Negotiate Anything and Win

These ancient battle secrets are the key to any modern victory, from business to big-ticket purchases.

Perhaps you’re bringing new investors into your startup. Maybe you’re gunning for that big promotion, and subsequent raise. Could be you’re preparing to purchase your first home, or car. Or you might just be trying to convince the fellas to get buffalo wings instead of pizza for the big game. In any case, the key to winning boardroom battles is preparation. In the words of the immortal Sun Tzu: “Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win.”

Generals from Napoleon to Norman Schwarzkopf have consulted the 5th-century military treatise known as The Art of War along their paths to victory. But we’re going to explore some of the finer points from its lesser-known but equally powerful contemporary, The 36 Strategies of Ancient China. Use these proven techniques, and you’ll master the art of compromise. And to make the most of every day, check out the exclusive report that’s changed thousands of lives: 100 Ways to Live to 100!

Men conversing in office

1
Hide a sword in a smile

Negotiations are essentially poker, and every good poker player knows: everyone has a “tell”: a physical manifestation of their anxiety. Nervous tics may give you away, so be sure you’re in control of your physical composure. Once you know what your tell is, and you’re aware enough to know when you might be (metaphorically) showing your hand, you’ve got two choices: either develop a mask (a behavior that helps you relax), or create a false tell. Do this while trying to figure out what the other person’s tell is, and you’ll be an expert in reading subconscious body language while hiding your own.
BEST LIFE TIP: Feeling nervous? Have a sip of water, and take a deep breath.

men in business suits about to box

2
Beat the grass to startle the snakes

Friendly faces and hearty handshakes notwithstanding, until you sign a deal, the person you’re negotiating with is your adversary. They’re approaching the game with the same intent as you: to get as much as possible, while giving away little or nothing in return. In all likelihood, they’ve already decided what they’re willing to offer, and what they’re willing to part with. Of course, you’ve no way of knowing any of this, so say something (mildly) controversial. Unusual, unexpected behavior tends to make people reveal themselves. If you’re not sure of their intentions, rattle their cages just a bit. For more expert battle tips, check out these 8 CEO-Proven Resilience Builders!
BEST LIFE TIP: Drop a hint that you have some inside information; watch the response to gauge your replies.

Man in suit looking at camera while in a meeting

3
Play the fool

The negotiation table is not the place to make a show of how smart you are. Allow your opponent to feel superior; it’s a tactical advantage. They’ll be more likely to let some small thing slip, and even if they don’t, when it’s all said and done, they’ll walk away feeling like they got the better part of the deal.
BEST LIFE TIP: A minor intentional stumble–physical or verbal–gives the false impression of unpreparedness and ineptitude.

Man staring out of office window

4
In order to capture, one must let loose

Resign yourself ahead of time to divesting yourself of everything that isn’t absolutely essential to achieving your goals. Release any emotional connection you might have toward what you know you’ll be losing. Let go of sentimentality, and more importantly, let go of ego. Now you’re ready to make deals.
BEST LIFE TIP: Imagine giving up what’s most precious to you before entering negotiations; the experience will make what you actually surrender pale in comparison. And learn more from the real-life masters of the universe with these tips: How the World’s 15 Richest Men Got That Way.

men working face to face

5
Exchange a brick for jade

Once you’ve determined everything that doesn’t really matter to you (it’s probably a lot more than you think), figure out how to make those things seem of prime importance. Dress your pawns as if they were rooks and knights, and make grand drama when asked to make these sacrifices. Never downplay the importance of anything you’re prepared to surrender. It’s not a win for the other side if you’re just giving away things of little or no value.
BEST LIFE TIP: (Reluctantly, petulantly) hand over the remote control; it will be that much more satisfying to watch someone else select the channel you want to watch. Then take the spoils of your victory and enjoy these amazing 50 Things You Must Do Before You Die!