How to apply negotiation skills learned from kids


Many if not all people learn how to negotiate early in their childhood. If you don’t believe me, go ahead and ask any parent. At the age of two children begin to negotiate eating more vegetables in exchange for ice cream or chocolate. By age three, kids already have an entire arsenal of negotiation tactics. The way in which they ensure they get the best toys, ice cream or having a later bedtime hour isn’t really child’s play. All these aspects provide an excellent example of how the negotiation tactics used by children may apply in any given situation.

1. Begin by offering support. Both my wife and I noticed lately that before our daughter’s birthday, when she receives a present or a requested toy, she often proves helpful around the house, whether we’re talking about cleaning, washing the dishes or simply taking out the trash. She always proactively helps out with chores and despite the fact that sometimes we are aware of this, most often she gets her way. This can also be applied in the business environment given the fact that it’s easier to say yes to a person that has done you a favor or is being nice to you.

2. Timing your approach is essential. If there ever were experts at timing their approach, it would have to be the kids. They usually ask for a favor or a gift when you’re preparing the dinner or putting your other child to bed. We have to give it to them, they figured it out. By asserting what your “mark” has going on at a point in time and timing it with their approach, almost always guarantees you a definite yes, whether we’re talking about the business setting or simply at home.

3. Leverage is the way to go. Siblings usually apply this strategy in difficult situations. For example, when my younger kid wants to ask us for an important toy she always finds herself “in cahoots” with her older brother. By ensuring she has a strong ally, she feels more confident that she will succeed. This in turn empowers and determines her not to give up. This tactic proves to be effective often, especially if the request is reasonable. In the business world this could be translated in creating a group of influential and trustworthy people before going to the man in charge and presenting your proposal. The more people that are there to back you up, the harder it will be for the decision maker to say no.

4. Leave aside merit for a little bit and focus on charm. Even though merit is crucial, charm goes a long way in creating an emotional connection. We all know the expression “How can you say no to a smile like that?”. This applies perfectly not only to children, but also to the business setting. All human beings have emotions, so you should exploit this as much as possible. Many would argue that in the business environment you should be ruthless, but a positive personal connection will prove more fruitful in the long run. Build personal relationships outside of the work environment because it will influence greatly the final result.

5. Focus on talking to the decision makers. Kids always know with whom to talk and who would be more likely to say yes to their request and that is why they will always target that particular person. Moreover, kids are resourceful considering the fact that if one decision maker says no, they will go and ask the second person that same thing and expect a different result. Don’t waste your time and have a conversation with a person that is not capable of saying yes or doesn’t have the power to make  a decision. Whether you’re negotiating a small of a big business deal, make sure you’re always talking to the right person. Otherwise you may get the short end of the stick.

What other things have your children thought you?

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