For a good part of the past decade, I’ve taught negotiation skills to diverse audiences—Fortune 500 executives, generals in the U.S. Army and Air Force, and professional athletes in the NFL and NHL. They tend to excel at preparing, analyzing options, and establishing a strong position. Yet some of their communication choices fly in the face of the best data on what actually works at the bargaining table.
Negotiations start with the exchange of information. Many people view this process like playing a poker game. Why should I tip my hand before I’ve seen yours?
But in Give and Take, I cover a wealth of evidence that most people are matchers: they follow the norm of reciprocity, responding in kind to how we treat them. This means that the best way to earn trust is to show trust. If we want to receive information, we need to lead by sharing information.
That said, it’s risky to give away information that could make you vulnerable. The good news is that there are two easy ways to avoid this trap. The first is a technique that I learned from Robert Adler, a negotiation professor who now serves as a Commissioner of the Consumer Product Safety Administration for the Obama administration. It’s called selective information-sharing, and it involves revealing a piece of information that’s small or impossible to use against you.
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