Notes on Start With No

Following are my highlights from Start with No by Jim Camp.

FWIW, I didn’t particularly like the tone of this book. Camp comes off as way more competitive than I like. That said, there are some good insights here and there. (see below)

If you’re looking for my favorite book on negotiation, check out Getting More by Stuart Diamond.

Anyway, here are my highlights from Start With No:

It is absolutely imperative that you as a negotiator understand the importance of this point. You do NOT need this deal, because to be needy is to lose control and make bad decisions.

Today, in the twenty-first century, we’re not needy. We’re just not, but we nevertheless still hear people say, “I need this jacket.” Or “I need this car.” Or “I need to make this call.” Or “I need this job.” Or “I need to talk to you.” Or “I need this deal.” We use the word “need” much too casually. The only things we truly need are the basics of physical survival—air, water, food, clothing, shelter—and everyone reading this book already has these.

How many people do you know who won’t let you get a word in edgewise? By being overbearing, these people are actually betraying neediness.

Cold calling is the worst way to do business, we all know that. But I say it’s also a great way, because it’s a great training ground, and it can be surprisingly effective because your neediness is under control. You have no great expectations, that’s for sure, and your discipline is keen. You start off by saying something like: “Well, Mary, I have no idea whether what we do has any relevance for your business. I just don’t know, maybe it doesn’t. If not, just tell me and I’ll be on my way, but if whoever handles your market research …” And off you go—or not. It doesn’t matter. Your neediness is under control.

When emotions run hot and heavy in negotiations, the high-pitched voice is a sure sign of need. The rushed delivery is another sure sign. While needy negotiators raise their voices, negotiators under control lower their voices. So lower your voice in times of inner turmoil. Slow down.

The serious negotiator understands that he or she cannot go out into the world spending emotional energy in the effort to be liked, to be smart, to be important.

In labor-management relationships, a key tactic of management is to find union members who want a boost to the ego and can therefore be made to feel needy. Such members can be manipulated until they are double agents for management, in effect, passing on contrived information, telling their own union members, “Our committee is getting us killed. I’ve got buddies in management. That’s what they tell me. They might shut this plant down if we keep on like this.”

The next time you watch one of the predator-prey nature shows on public television or one of the wildlife channels, watch the chase scenes carefully. There are always one or two in which the lion or the cheetah is not successful, and each time the scenario is the same: The predator gets closer to the prey … closer … closer, then slips back slightly—and immediately gives up. On the spot. When the distance to the prey begins to widen, the hunter quits. She (the females do most of the hunting) will never waste energy on a losing cause. She saunters off, because it doesn’t matter. There are other wildebeests, other gazelles. Likewise, the trained negotiator has no needs, because it just doesn’t matter. There are other deals. Turn the page on this one. Let it go.

When someone has tried to close on you too quickly—and someone has, in one context or another, unless you’re still a babe in arms—you instinctively reacted in the negative. Nothing, but nothing, will blow a negotiation faster than such a rush to judgment. Why? You had a vision of neediness, which makes anyone feel uncomfortable emotionally, and which also serves as a warning to look closer at this deal.

More bad deals are signed and more sales are lost because of neediness than because of any other single factor.

When you stop to consider, it’s amazing how much in our lives that we get so worked up over doesn’t matter, not really.

As a negotiator aspiring to excellence, you must, at all costs, avoid showing need. In order to avoid showing need, you must never feel it.

You do not need this deal.

As good negotiators, the word “want” means something we work for, strive for, plan for, but it is never confused with “need.” Sure I want this global alliance with Humongous, Inc., but I don’t need it. I want the car, but I don’t need it. I want the house, but I don’t need it. It will be their loss, not mine, if any of these deals falls through. Either way, I’ll sleep tonight and I’ll eat tomorrow.

“Need” is death, “want” is life. Believe me, this different attitude will be instantly perceived by the folks on the other side of the table. Confidence and trust go up across the board. Control and discipline go up for you.

Overcome all need.

From the moment of birth, all of us, as members of the human race, struggle to feel comfortable and safe. As babies and toddlers, we need—we demand!—the unconditional love of our parents that is the only source of our well-being. As young children, our demands in this regard increase. We want to be recognized. We wanted to be heard. We want to be liked. We want to be right. Or should I say we need all this? I’m afraid so. And this need to feel okay follows us right through adolescence and into adulthood as we struggle for victory, achievement, success.

When we are with people we think we are ahead of, or at least equal to, we feel comfortable. Conversation comes easily and questions seem to have no risk. We feel okay. But in the presence of people to whom we feel inferior, whether culturally, socially, or intellectually, we feel unokay and can become defensive, or aggressive, or resentful, or a lot of other emotions.

The wise negotiator knows that only one person in a negotiation can feel okay, and that person is the adversary.

The trained negotiator is more than happy to let the adversary show off in almost any way he wants to, because that adversary’s greatest strength will eventually become his greatest weakness.

I am not suggesting that you appear unprofessional. I’m asking you not to be afraid of candor and honesty, not to be afraid of not being totally okay, of being less than perfect. Do you enjoy being around the perfect person? I don’t. People want to deal with a regular person. In a negotiation, being less okay is just showing a foible now and then. Struggle a little. Borrow a pen or paper to take notes. Search for the right words to ask questions. Letting people help you is an excellent way to help them feel more okay. It also says to your adversary, “What you see is what you get.”

New clients think I must be kidding when I even suggest they leave their briefcase or business cards at home for the first meeting, and maybe you just won’t do it, but I’m here to tell you that this gambit or something similar can be so powerful it’s scary. I once coached a woman who sold office equipment to Silicon Valley start-ups. In one negotiation in which a $35,000 commission was at stake, I finally convinced her to drop her purse onto the floor. Only thing was, when the purse hit the floor it fell open and the contents spilled everywhere. A real mess. The guy she was negotiating with hurried around the desk and got down on his knees to help my client gather everything up. As she was expressing her embarrassment, he was saying, “Hey, forget it. You’ve got the deal.” Again, some might call this gamesmanship, but I disagree. My client didn’t get the deal because she dropped her purse. She got the deal because the purse episode broke through the final barrier in the negotiation, allowing decisions to flow freely. This is not trivial gamesmanship. This is honesty, the honesty of unokayness that breaks down barriers.

The tougher the negotiation, the more critical it is to understand that if someone in this room has to be unokay, it will be you and not your adversary. When your adversary feels unokay, the barriers go up much faster than you can break them down. But unokayness on your part breaks down barriers—like magic, often.

If you have any doubts about the wisdom of the advice in this chapter, it couldn’t be easier to check out. The next time you find yourself in a situation in which your “adversary” is maybe just a little standoffish or doubtful, try being a little less okay. Pretend your pen has run out of ink and ask to borrow one for a moment. Or search your pocket for your notepad and come up short and ask to borrow a slip of paper. Or pretend your Palm Pilot has run out of power—again. And then try to tell me you don’t notice an immediate, beneficial difference in the atmosphere of this “negotiation.”

“No, we don’t think so, we believe in a fair profit for our business. Feel free to say no to us in return, but we’re not giving you a good piece of our business for nothing. That’s not a good practice for us and our investors.”

My client calmly said okay, but we did do a lot of juggling here on your behalf, we’d like you to buy the two old systems anyway. Say no if you want to, it’ll be okay, no hard feelings, but we think the fair thing is for you to buy the two old systems. The customer agreed.

As a hobby, I had also started selling water softening systems for a guy I knew. My approach was simple: “Mrs. Smith, I have a little demonstration of what a water softener can do for you. Maybe it will interest you, maybe it won’t. I don’t know. If you’d like to look, I’d be happy to show you, and if you’re interested, great, and if you’re not, that’s fine, too. I’ll be on my way.” Within months I was making more money selling water softening systems than I was flying jet airplanes.

As Exhibit A I now introduce a client from some years ago, a lawyer and expert on Japanese business and legal practices who hired me because he could never get paid what he was worth. This was a man at the very top of his demanding field, a man who consulted with the prime minister of Japan, but he often worked for a $100 per hour consulting fee in the States. Just ridiculous. He should have received $400 minimum plus expenses, but he was a win-win negotiator, and he was always getting screwed, and he knew it, but he couldn’t control himself. He certainly understood in theory the power of saying “no” and inviting the other party to say “no,” but the idea of actually proceeding in this way on his own behalf was too terrifying. But one day we were driving together from San Francisco down to the Silicone Valley when he got a call on his mobile phone from a company wanting him to be an expert witness in Los Angeles for two days. On the spot, I urged him to take this opportunity to test the power of “no” for himself. He told the caller that he’d call right back, and we quickly came up with an agenda for him. (Agendas will be discussed in depth in chapter 12.) My client would ask for first-class airfare, a limousine at the airport, and $500 an hour, with a minimum of two days—a total of $8,000 for sixteen hours, to be transferred by wire immediately. There was nothing out of line about this proposal, nothing at all. For an expert of his prominence, he was right in line. Nevertheless, he was very uncomfortable when he returned the call, made his presentation, then invited them to say “no” if this was too much money. He would understand, he assured the other party, no hard feelings, and he was sure they could find another good expert witness somewhere on the West Coast. Maybe he could even recommend one, given a little time. So, he said, just let me know. The caller on the other end said he’d have to check on this. My client hung up totally exhausted from his traumatic experience. Forty-five minutes later, the other party called back, agreed to the deal, and asked for the account number for the wire transfer.

Another client actually said to me recently, “How will people like my company if we don’t cut our price?” In just so many words! He didn’t ask, “How will my company be profitable?” or “How will we be seen as an effective, dynamic company with which to do business?” He asked, “How will they like me?” This was a new and untrained client, that’s for sure. He never thought in those terms again. Just imagine the predators out there lying in wait to take advantage of such a vulnerable adversary.

Respect, Not Friendship, Is What You Want

For businesspeople and negotiators in any field, much more important than friendliness are effectiveness and respect. Nothing more. Have you ever wondered how the jerks of the world get along? How some even get ahead? How a very few even get to the top? These people don’t get away with their boorish, offensive behavior for no good reason. They get away with it because they’re effective in their work and bring benefit to their business relationships, in one way or another.

As will become quite clear, I advocate and coach respectful dealings and politeness with the adversary at all times. This is mandatory for my clients. But this practice has nothing to do with saving the adversary from taking responsibility for decisions, all for the sake of friendship or for being liked or for feeling important. Most businesspeople, if they stop to think about this question carefully, will agree that friendships in business are the product of long-term effective dealings. Making decisions based on a sense that the adversary seeks your friendship is misguided. They would much prefer your effectiveness.

What really happens when we make a bad decision? We make another decision, and then another, and then another, and then another. A negotiation is a series of decisions. When—not if, but when—you make a bad decision, you simply follow it with a better one. Understanding this simple lesson will liberate you as a negotiator. Or as a flight instructor told my son during his training as a military pilot, “Lieutenant Camp, you sure make some bad decisions in this airplane, but don’t worry. As long as you at least do make decisions, we can fix the bad ones.” Take responsibility for the bad decision, learn from it, embrace the failure, and soldier on without fear because you are only one decision away from getting back on track. But this attitude and approach take discipline and a lot of self-confidence, because being right is very important to most of us. It is a powerful need, and like all needs, it must be overcome.

Embrace “no” at every opportunity in a negotiation. Don’t fear the word, invite it. You do not take it as a personal rejection because you are not needy. You understand that every “no” is reversible.

This can be difficult to do when dealing with committed win-win adversaries, but when you are able to do so, you’ll be amazed how this right to say and hear “no” clears the air at the negotiating table. If your adversary is a shrewd, highly trained expert, they’ll consider you with a great deal more respect. If your adversary is a naive win-winner, they will feel much more safe. They can give you an honest “no,” you’ll accept it gratefully, and they know you’ll react in the same way in the future. Feeling safe saying “no,” they also feel safe hearing “no.” Barriers go down, trust goes up, everyone feels more comfortable, everyone becomes more forthright, we’re all adults here, the atmosphere of honesty is welcome. In the long run, “no” is really the safest answer. It does not tear down business relationships. It builds them. You want win-win? Saying and inviting and hearing “no” are the real win-win.

How can you stay on track during a long negotiation or endeavor of any kind without a clear mission and purpose? There’s no other way. But if you do develop and adhere to a valid mission and purpose, how can you go off the track? It’s impossible. If you have a valid mission and purpose, and the result of your negotiation fulfills this mission and purpose, it’s a good and worthwhile negotiation.

mission and purpose is the very essence of success. It must become as automatic as breathing. You must develop the habit of referring to it on matters great and small, because it gives you crystal-clear guidance in all cases.

The ultimate example of the effectiveness of the mission and purpose to guide decisions in the most difficult and critical circumstances imaginable—so difficult and critical that they’re unimaginable, really, to my mind—was President Lincoln’s single-minded focus on saving the Union. That was his mission and purpose in his negotiation with his constituency and his other negotiation with the Confederacy: save the Union. At any cost. Lincoln had decided that the dream of a North American continent that could avoid the precedent offered by the European states—war after war after war—would be so jeopardized should the Union break apart that he was willing to make any personal sacrifice (which he did, in the end, and not to his surprise), and he was willing to ask any sacrifice of his people, including this Civil War, in the service of that mission and purpose.

Someone starts out selling ice cream cones, then starts making the ice cream, then buys his own cows—and then figures he might as well open a butcher shop as well!

My mission and purpose is to help people see, discover, and decide to experience this world as a world of imagination and possibility and healing. We do this by sharing our stories and the model of our company, in a way that is sustainable now and into the future our children will inherit.

NOTE: This is hilariously bad compared to "save the Union at any cost"

History and experience should tell each and every one of us, time and time again, that having wealth and/or power as the aim in life will destroy any individual (and many other people, in some instances). The cliché is worth repeating one more time: Money for money’s sake does corrupt; power for power’s sake does corrupt. Will businesspeople whose mission and purpose is to “make a killing” grow and thrive in the long run with such a narrow, self-serving mission and purpose?

Another problem with concentrating on money and power as a mission and purpose is that you’re scorekeeping, and scorekeeping means you’re thinking about results over which you have no real control. To repeat, you’re thinking about breaking par for the first time (or bogey, more likely), not about the requirements of this crucial shot on seventeen.

winning is beyond our control, while preparation is 100 percent under our control.

My clients do not set sales targets, quotas, numbers, percentages. Never. Instead, they set goals they can control.

What you can control is behavior and activity, what you cannot control is the result of this behavior and activity.

No vision, no real decision: this is a rule of human nature. The most pliable win-win folks won’t buy a ten-cent trinket without some kind of vision of themselves or their children playing with this trinket. Right? If you have any doubt about this point, please take a moment to think about it. It’s some vision in our mind’s eye that leads us to buy this house, to plant this flower, to negotiate this deal. All of us make decisions based on the vision we have of the issue at hand. No vision, no decision. It’s vital that you understand this point. As a negotiator, questions are the fuels we use to lead the adversary to a vision that will serve as a catalyst for a decision. As much as possible, we want the negotiation to stay in our adversary’s world. Questions do serve the further purpose of helping us control our own neediness and to be unokay—and this is a valuable purpose, I hope we all agree—but the vital purpose of questions is to allow us to move around in the adversary’s world and see what they see and then lead them to a clear vision and decision as well.

The answer to the verb-led question usually does not give you worthwhile information. That’s one problem. Another problem is that such a question can often seem to the adversary as if you’re driving for a “yes.” “Can you do this?” is a perfect example. This question seems to the adversary to be calculated to take away the right to answer “no.” It seems subtly manipulative, and usually it is subtly manipulative. Most people don’t really want to say “no” in the first place, as we’ve discussed, so if your question makes it even harder for them to do so, you have created an uncomfortable, defensive adversary, and this does you no good at all.

But what if I were to ask this question: “What would you like me to do?” Well, this simple question is of a different sort altogether. This question spawns some interesting dynamics. Mainly, it is a very comforting question to hear. It demonstrates that you, the negotiator who has asked this question, has no needs at the table. You have opened an area for negotiation and shown no fear. You are making no assumptions. The adversary feels okay, because you are at her service. You are certainly not closing, attempting to confuse, or any of that negative stuff. Hearing this question, the adversary on the other side of the table has no reason to fear you. Just as important, this open-ended question does not have a quick answer. It cannot be answered with yes, no, or maybe. The necessarily more extended answer will have—well, may have—some information, or some emotion, or some telltale waffling, or some insight. It should have something you can work with, because, as we know, people have a weakness for talking.

The interrogative-led question helps you help the adversary to turn on their own vision and to paint clear pictures, so that both sides have the same picture. It gives you the power to see what they see, and you need to.

One good interrogative-led question to fit into an early discussion might be “How can you stay competitive without this technology?” Notice the vital difference between that question and “Can you stay competitive without this technology?” The point of both questions is to lead the adversary to see that they cannot stay competitive otherwise, but the question led by the verb “can” sounds faintly accusatory and might put the adversary on the defensive, while the question led by the interrogative “how” is softer, less threatening, and more inviting of a straightforward, worthwhile answer.

One good interrogative-led question to fit into an early discussion might be “How long does it take to develop a great umpire?” Another might be “How many bad calls does it take to really hurt a baseball game?”

Another key is to ask one question at a time. Simple question by simple question, answer by answer, you will help your adversary build his own picture of the issue. But often we don’t do this. A negotiation is a very emotional arena, of course, and we get impatient and load one question on top of another, asking five or six in a row, barely pausing to take a breath, much less letting the adversary answer. Instead, you must take each question slow and easy and listen to each answer, because that answer is the clue for framing the next question. “When is your ideal delivery date?” “How critical is this November date for you?” “I’m not sure I understand. Why is November so important?” “Oh, when did that problem on the production line show up?” Interesting news! And it happens all the time, because mixed in with everything else in the answers to good questions will be some spilled beans.

There seems to be a human impulse to help people answer our questions. We start off with a good interrogative-led question but then answer it for the adversary, or at the least throw out possible answers. I ask, “What is the biggest challenge you face?” and before you have a chance to answer I add, “Is it the national economy or your local labor problems?” One mistake on top of another: We answered the question for our adversary and in doing so our interrogative-led question turned into a verb-led question. All we accomplish with this intervention is to impede the process by which the adversary creates a vision for himself and for us regarding his company’s greatest challenge.

Reversing This is a behavior that you must hone to perfection for successful negotiations. The reverse is the behavioral tactic that answers a question with a question, the answer to which will do you some good. When your adversary asks you a question, you do have to say something, but not in the way in which you were trained in school.

Vital point: The reverse should be preceded by a short nurturing statement, because you don’t want to sound like a district attorney during cross-examination. Without the nurturing tidbit, the reverse will do you little good, but if you have any doubt that the nurturing reverse works, try it the next time you’re talking with someone at the proverbial watercooler. We human beings are seduced by it every time. “Jim, what will this option do for me?” “That’s a good question, Dick. Before we get into that, what’s the biggest challenge you’re facing in this area?” Nurture, reverse: “That was certainly well thought out. By the way, what are your cost constraints?” “We definitely have to talk about that, but before we go there …” “Interesting. Really interesting. How soon will you be up against a deadline here?” “That’s something I hadn’t thought of. When could you deliver?” “Hmmm. What am I missing here? What else can you tell me about that?”

give some kind of answer. In this case, give a no-risk answer. If your adversary asks your opinion about a given matter, what she’s really after is your agreement. Don’t give it to her. “Well, Mary, I know how you feel and I really respect your opinion, but to tell you the truth, I haven’t had time to solidify my opinion. You may be right. I’m sort of going both ways. But your opinion is always in the back of my mind.” You haven’t given up any information, and you have ever so subtly made your adversary think you’re supporting her position without actually doing so. “How much does it cost?” “A lot.” “How long have you guys been working on this?” “It seems like forever!” You’re satisfying the necessity of answering, but the information you’re giving is, for all intents and purposes, not worth much. Most of the time, however, your adversary will not recognize this, will accept the answer, and will be open to a good question from you.

As I’ve said in several contexts, we have a tendency to want to save our adversary, to be liked. This instinct can impel us into these three common negotiating errors, which I have derived from what every attorney tells his client before a deposition or testimony: never answer an unasked question; don’t interpret a statement as a question; and never reply to random statements. “I don’t like what I see, Jim.” When we hear this, many of us will feel an urge to reply in some way, to try to set things right. “Well, Damon, this isn’t written in concrete.” No! The best way to deal with the leading unasked question or the provocative remark is to use it as a basis for prying out more information. How? By employing what I call a connector. To respond is average negotiating behavior; to connect is contrarian negotiating behavior, and much more effective. Think about the psychiatrist, whose job is to help the client understand his problems and then deal with them. Here’s one possible exchange: “Doctor, you’re not helping me.” “I think I am helping you.” “No, you’re not helping me at all.” “Of course I’m helping you.” “If you’re helping me so much, then why do I feel so bad?” “Well, you feel bad because you’re not committed.” “I am committed, you’re just not a very good shrink.” The patient is correct. This is not a good shrink. Now let’s see how the nurturing connector might have improved the exchange. “Doctor, you’re not helping me at all.” “Help me understand.” “Well, I just don’t feel as though I am making any progress.” “Annnnnd?” “I’m having trouble doing the exercises you told me to do.” “I see. What’s the most difficult problem you are having with the exercises?” That little word “and,” when asked as a question, is an excellent connector. “I don’t like what I see, Jim.” “Aannnnnnnnd?” [This is drawn out, accompanied by a shrug. The adversary now has to fill in the picture for Jim.] “I can’t get too excited about this until I see your competition.” Fine. You’ve learned something. In effect, the connection is another type of reverse. Your adversary’s floating remark, gauged to get some kind of reaction from you, is turned around with the intent of getting some kind of useful information from him. “Wow. This is pretty much out of nowhere.” “Which means …?” [Accompanied by a shrug.] “This isn’t going to happen unless you lose a zero.” Fine again. You’ve learned something. Profound, silent concern on your part can also serve as a connector. People don’t like silence. It’s the void that our nature abhors. Your adversary will rush to fill in the blank. “Wow. This is pretty much out of nowhere.” Silence. “This isn’t going to happen unless you can deliver next month.” Now you’re really getting somewhere. The connector, like the reverse, has helped get us to the real issue.

No vision, no decision.

Find a good opportunity to say, “Wow, this is bad. I don’t know if we can ever recover from this.” Quite likely, your adversary will then help you recover. It’s so much fun when this happens.

All of these negative behavioral activities that we’ve already discussed have to go out the window in the interests of blank slating. But once we do get the hang of blank slate, we become so focused and intense that we almost feel we’re stepping out of our bodies, going to a corner of the room, and watching ourselves negotiate with the adversary. It’s an exhilarating feeling. Your ability to blank slate is directly related to your ability to rid yourself of expectations and assumptions, two very bad words in my system of negotiation. Real taboos. By nature, we humans are chock-full of expectations and assumptions. As a negotiator, you must learn to recognize them and set them aside. They have less than zero value to you as a serious negotiator.

“It looks good.” When the novice on the other side of the table hears such a statement, he starts mentally counting coup and then gets whipsawed by the next statement, “What’s going to be your discounted price?” The novice provides some number and there he is, locked in for the rest of the negotiation unless he’s really good, and he’s not really good or he wouldn’t have talked price at such an early stage of the negotiation, before he knew anything at all. Happens all the time.

Neither positive nor negative expectations have a place in my system. You blank slate and you negotiate, that’s all. When you have a mission and purpose in place, when you have behavioral goals in place, when you’ve established your plan to solve the real problem, when you have laserlike focus—when you have all this going for you, why would you want to climb on any kind of emotional roller coaster of expectations? Once you really start using my system, you are so dedicated to goals over which you have control, so oblivious to anything over which you don’t have control, and so free of neediness that expectations shouldn’t even enter into the equation. But of course they do anyway. Expectations are everywhere. In this regard, they’re like emotions. In fact, they are emotions. You cannot banish them once and for all, but you can see them for what they are and take appropriate measures. When things seem to be going your way in a negotiation, it’s easy to get excited and tempting to let your emotions take over. When you feel this happening, call a time-out, take a bathroom break, or suggest a break for coffee or for lunch, or step back in some other way.

Close your eyes and picture a horse. Okay, what color is the horse? Is it light or dark? Shiny or dull? How big is the horse? How tall? How wide is he across the back? Oops! Did you recognize when I made my first assumption? Sure you did if you pictured a mare and I said “he.” Because I pictured “he” when I posed the situation, I assumed you did as well. That’s when I blew the blank slate. In a real negotiation that mistake could put me in a losing position. If you were in the horse business and were looking for a filly and I was picturing a gelding, we’re not off to a good start. I needed to see your picture of the horse, not my picture. Forget my picture. It doesn’t matter at all.

We can also plant assumptions—and if the opposing parties let you, why not? Say you’re asked how much your widget costs. “It’s expensive,” you say. Well, this word means very different things to a millionaire and to a man making $30,000, and—here’s the important kicker—each immediately assumes that you mean what he means, and you may well find him preparing to pay a price much higher than yours. In fact, people—negotiators—make offers higher than you ever dreamed they would because of such false assumptions on their part.

Research is indispensable, but the best single, easy-to-use, foolproof tool we have at our disposal to blank slate is the simplest one imaginable: taking great notes. By its very nature, if we stop to think about the process, note taking removes us from our world and keeps us in our adversary’s world. The simple act of picking up the pen or pencil moves us in that direction. Note taking reinforces listening skills. As we take our notes, our concentration is automatically focused on what is being said. In seminars, meetings, and negotiations, I can quickly tell which ones are the most successful people around the table. They are effectively silencing their own thoughts and learning as much as they can about their adversary’s world. They are the ones listening closely and taking notes. They are blank slating and gathering the pieces of the puzzle. (It’s important to note that they are not solving the puzzle. That comes later, with analysis, with burning the midnight oil.) They know that what is really said and what we actually hear during a negotiation is far more important than what we allow ourselves to think while others talk. In order to blank slate effectively, the little voice in our own heads must be silent.

First just listen with the most open possible mind. Don’t judge. That comes later.

YOUR ADVERSARY IN any negotiation must have vision before they can ever take action. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: no vision, no action. No vision, no decision. No vision, no deals that stick. This is Human Nature 101, and it’s the subtext, to one extent or another, of much of the preceding material. But what, exactly, do we need a vision of? Pain.

attention is the story of Winston Churchill’s brilliant success in getting the attention of the worldwide public in the first days of World War II. On May 13, 1940, after Churchill had become British prime minister following the resignation of Neville Chamberlain, whose name has since become synonymous with appeasement, the new leader of the British polity appeared before the House of Commons and was asked for a succinct statement of his wartime policy. His answer: “It is to wage war, by sea, land, and air, with all our might and with all the strength that God can give us: to wage war against a monstrous tyranny, never surpassed in the dark, lamentable catalogue of human crime. That is our policy.”

In a really efficient negotiation, both parties will work to clarify the vision of the pain of the adversary.

In most cases in which you have an intractable problem in a negotiation, either you have failed to help your adversary understand his pain, or you have failed to have a clear vision of the pain, or the real pain is actively hidden.

your challenge as a negotiator is to discover and paint for your adversary the clearest possible picture of their pain while always nurturing.

Turn on the discovery channel, I like to say. Paint the pain. When you finally get to the right person in a negotiation, they will often spill the beans and reveal their real pain so that you can fix it.

You can’t challenge all the time and money that the company has invested in a misguided direction without nurturing. Without careful nurturing, the vision your adversaries will have is that they’re incompetent losers and that their heads will soon be rolling. Only with the most careful nurturing and with the most careful painting of the pain will they see and accept the merits of the correct vision, and see and decide that going in another direction is the only way for long-term success. So you say: “Now, I ask you to be patient with me here, but I’ve got a real problem. Maybe I’m out of my mind. I need you to tell me if I am. Just say so. And everything I say is going to sound self-serving, I understand that, but with your permission, I’d like to tell you what I see, and together let’s see if it makes sense.” But you don’t describe your vision at all. Instead, you ask a series of interrogative-led questions to build their vision. The first question is “What direction is this whole industry now going in the area of wireless widgets?” You have nurtured, you have given the adversary permission to say no, and you will use the 3+ technique. This is how you start building for your adversary his vision of his own pain, which in this case he isn’t hiding and doesn’t even know.

When you begin any new negotiation or find yourself losing control of an ongoing negotiation, you return to—what? Your mission and purpose. And where is your mission and purpose set? In your adversary’s world. And what is embedded deep within your adversary’s world? Their pain. When in doubt, return to the pain. And always nurture, because without it, the pain may simply be too much.

The clearer your adversary’s vision of his pain, the easier the decision-making process. This may sound like one of the more counterintuitive aspects of my system of negotiation, but think about it this way: If your doctor doesn’t paint for you a crystal-clear picture of your case—your pain—will she ever be able to “sell” you this medicine or this outpatient procedure, much less this three-hour operation? Somehow I rather doubt it.

for your adversary. That’s amateur hour. What you help to create is their vision of their very real pain.

Rather than set out on the sometimes long, hard road of painting vision and pain, many negotiators make the fatal mistake of thinking they can convince someone to make the rational decision to do something, to buy something, to see something the same way they see it. They offer up reasons, facts, figures, and charm that they are sure would make any rational person see things the way they see them. In fact, most negotiators think of the gift of gab as one of their greatest assets. But what’s the problem with trying to convince someone to see the same thing you see? You know the answer to this question, but let’s go ahead and spell it out. To begin with, you’re asking your adversary to come into your world and to see your world. And where do we want to spend our time in a negotiation? In the adversary’s world. Second, if we’re busy giving reasons to our adversary, we’re too busy talking; we’re totally in our world and impeding our ability to blank slate. Finally, and most important of all, we’re forgetting that decisions are made not with our head but with our heart and guts, first of all. Remember, negotiations are 100 percent emotional until a decision is made.

You cannot tell anyone anything. Think about this and be sure you agree with me. You can only help people see for themselves.

In trying to convince someone to buy this product or service or to sign this deal, in trying to reason with someone, we are setting ourselves up to fail. Instead, we have to use our fuels of the system—asking questions, nurturing, connecting, reversing, and more—in order to paint the picture of their pain.

“Your greatest strength is your greatest weakness.” I quote these words from Emerson for the second time, because truer words were never written. For a negotiator, they’re pure gold. The naturally glib negotiator talks too much. The brilliant negotiator tries to overpower his adversary with intelligence. The friendly, compassionate negotiator tries to “save” his adversary. The aggressive negotiator tries to browbeat his adversary. The list of scenarios goes on and on and on, and the painting of pain is one area in which the serious negotiator must be particularly careful not to get carried away with his or her particular strength and skill. You want to avoid that emotional pendulum I wrote about in the section on strip lines in chapter 7. You want to avoid the too positive and the too negative. The vision has to be clear, but so does the solution you offer. You must not frighten or anger the adversary, you can’t appear to be lording it over your adversary, you must nurture at all times. Painting the pain is one of the real arts of negotiation. You must wield the brush with the touch of an Old Master.

When I was a youngster my whole family enjoyed watching an old game show called Beat the Clock, with Bob Collyer as the host. He was the Regis Philbin of that era, I guess. The idea of the show was that contestants ran around the studio trying to beat the clock in the accomplishment of some ridiculous task. For some strange reason, I got to thinking about Beat the Clock years later, and I realized that we, the audience, focused on the clock, while we should have been watching the contestants’ activity and behavior. Worse, the contestants were always looking up to see how much time they had remaining. But this shouldn’t have mattered. They were working as fast as they could, weren’t they? If they beat the clock, they beat it; if they didn’t, they didn’t. Watching the clock only slowed them down and made it more likely that they would not beat the clock. Bottom line: usually it wasn’t the clock that beat them. They beat themselves with what I call invalid behavior.

as negotiators we must train ourselves to care about the hours of the day. We must understand that time can be used against us in many ways, especially as a way to increase the real price of a negotiation and eventually bring about a possible compromise. All of a sudden we’re saying to ourselves, “I’ve got too much time in this. I can’t turn away now.” For the crafty negotiator, increasing the adversary’s time budget is the oldest game in the book: making you wait an hour, flooding you with e-mails and faxes, asking you to drive two hours or fly eight hours, canceling at the last minute—or arguing for nine months about the shape of the negotiating table, which is what Ho Chi Minh’s team did in the 1974 Paris peace negotiations, driving up Nixon and Kissinger’s time budget. The North Vietnamese had all the time in the world for this negotiation—after all, they’d already been fighting France or us for a generation—and they knew that Nixon and Kissinger did not.

Some experts specialize in analyzing how decision making differs culturally around the world. In the United States we supposedly have a vertical process, while in Japan it’s horizontal. I believe that most decision-making structures have both elements, and many surprising twists and turns as well. In my seminars I sometimes tell the story about the attempted change in the daily training regimen of a major college athletic department. It turned out that this change affected the schedule of the janitorial staff. In fact, the janitorial staff wielded something of a veto over aspects of the schedule. At the least, they had to be brought into the loop. So you never know. But you must know.

How do you find out the truth? The same way you find out the truth on any issue in a negotiation: You ask those interrogative-led questions. “Of course you make the decisions. But who else might you want to talk with?” “Who might be of service in making this decision?” “Who should we invite to support your decision?” “Who’d be sorry or upset if we left them out?” “How will this decision be reached?” “When will it be reached?” “What criteria and paperwork must be in place for it to be reached?” You need these answers. Eliminate all the wild cards you can think of. Continually ask yourself who’s missing? Who’s not in my loop who should be? And be ready for unearthing multiple decision makers, and be able and willing to negotiate with each and every one of them.

Resist the temptation to throw in the kitchen sink. If the only pain is the tire’s maximum carrying capacity, forget about how wide your tires are. If you’re trying to sell a house that has a beautiful lawn but the buyer hasn’t expressed any interest in a beautiful lawn, stifle the temptation to deliver a long spiel on the subject. Let the grass speak for itself. You can always bring it up later, if the occasion arises. (“Addition by subtraction”: this old sports adage about making your team better by getting rid of a certain player is also true for presentations.) Present in the order of importance: “Mr. Smith, since your most important concern is horsepower, let’s look at the engine first. Then we’ll check out the headroom for the driver’s seat, since you’re rather tall and I know that’s also important to you.”

Now recall from chapter 3 the football recruit who used my system. He never made the formal presentation of an application to the school he finally chose—and that chose him—but he did provide a demonstration—a videotape—and the key point about his demonstration pertains to presentations. Most recruits make the mistake of submitting film that is in their own world: clips of their spectacular runs, spectacular catches, touchdowns. But is this what the coach really wants to see? If it’s not, if the coach’s pain is elsewhere, the recruit has not presented to that pain. The way to find out is to ask the question this recruit asked of every coach: “How do you evaluate a player?” Isn’t this question just common sense? Yes. But is it commonly asked? No. Our recruit found out that the answer varied from coach to coach and often seemed very limited. One coach was mainly interested in vertical jumping ability, another in speed, another in strength work (specifically, the bench press). One coach would not recruit a defensive back under six feet tall, and another would not recruit any players under six feet tall. In any event, no coach said or implied, Send me clips of your greatest plays. So our recruit tailored his videotape to the answers provided by each coach. He presented in the world of each specific coach, not his own world. He showed them what he had decided they wanted to see, not what he thought they should want to see, or what he wanted to see of himself. That approach took a lot of discipline and a lot of work.

Prep-end step is also about how to end the negotiation short of agreement. It happens in straight sales, it happens in proposed multibillion-dollar corporate mergers. You have a budget for the negotiation, you have your mission and purpose, and this deal just isn’t going to happen. This finally becomes clear. You decide the time has come to retire. When this happens, I recommend the calm, quiet “Thanks but no thanks, maybe next time.” To my mind, this fadeaway is far more effective than burning bridges. I hate to see clients burn their bridges, no matter how ill-served they feel. For one thing, it betrays neediness on their part. They wouldn’t feel the temptation to burn bridges if they didn’t have too much invested emotionally. For another, who knows what will happen in the future? Complete changes of heart or mind are not unknown, after all. I just can’t see any advantage to burned bridges except some kind of short-term self-validation, and that kind of neediness is not good enough, not in my system.

IN ANY ROLE in life, including negotiation, there is a direct correlation between our self-image and our performance. We consistently perform to the level of our self-image. Our world was built by men and women of high self-esteem. In negotiation, it is absolutely required if you are to succeed.

Self-esteem keeps you in the fight when you face overwhelming odds. With it, no situation can keep you from seeing yourself as a strong person, a capable person, a deserving person, a successful person. High self-image gives us the strength to endure high levels of success. It confirms your desire to fulfill your capabilities. It demands that you be paid full measure for work rendered. It is your high self-image that won’t allow you to sleep if you don’t do the right thing. On the other hand, those of us with low self-image will not pay the price of victory. We will quit. Bill Gates did not take on the federal government while burdened with low self-esteem. In fact, I challenge anyone to find examples of greatness in any field produced by individuals with low self-esteem.

Achievement requires self-esteem, and to build self-esteem you only need to start paying forward, to pay forward more effectively, at every opportunity, with your family and friends, in the workplace, in your community, in your house of worship, everywhere. And then you should pay forward some more. You will reap the benefit in every aspect of your life, including most definitely the negotiating table.

In a situation in which you feel a little conflict brewing, simply ask, “What would you like me to do, Jonathan? I’m at your service.”

Try the Columbo effect in an innocuous situation and be a little unokay: run out of ink, run out of battery power, whatever.

When you find yourself talking too much, try the simplest reverse there is, combined with an interrogative-led question: “But enough from me, Pete. How do you see all this falling into place?”