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Mastering the art of negotiation

With the economy still in the midst of recovery and merchants desperate to turn a profit, shoppers stand a good chance of getting some good bargains these days. Too bad so many don't know how to ask for them. Most North Americans hate to haggle. Too afraid to make waves, they'd rather leave and shop somewhere else than attempt to negotiate on price.

"This is a cultural thing," says Herb Cohen, one of the world's foremost negotiators who helped create the FBI's hostage negotiation program, advised president Carter on the Iranian Hostage Crisis and is credited with coining the term "win-win" in 1963 and popularizing it in his worldwide bestseller "How to Negotiate Anything." 

"The only countries in the world with this kind of attitude are the United States, Canada, most of the U.K. and Australia. Everywhere else, people expect you to negotiate. If you don't, they don't want to sell to you because they feel you aren't willing to relate to them on a human level," he says. "One hundred years ago, Americans use to negotiate because we weren't as affluent as we are now. After the Second World War, we had a monopoly on a lot of the world's manufactured goods and people had to deal with that kind of ultimatum, so that (no choice) attitude became much more pervasive.

But as a customer, you never have to take a sticker price lying down. "Anything that's the product of a negotiation can be negotiated for," says Cohen. "You just have to know how to do it effectively."

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Negotiating is child's play
"The difference between the average person and a negotiator is, a negotiator challenges everything," says Ed Brodow, a negotiation expert named one of America's top dealmakers by Forbes Magazine and the author of "Negotiation Boot Camp." He and Cohen agree that those uncomfortable with haggling should look no further than their own children for techniques.

"People who are afraid of other people's reactions should make 'I' statements. You take responsibility for your behaviour, that way you're not attacking the other person. It's just like when you negotiate with your child. If the kid is running around screaming, instead of telling them to shut up and leaving them with a complex, you say, 'I don't feel comfortable when you do that,' and they understand," he says.

Kids are excellent negotiators in their own right. Even though they're small people in a big person's world with no authority, Cohen says they still manage to make things happen. "How do kids do it? Number one, they aim high. They understand that if you expect more, you get more, so they make initial unreasonable demands. Two, they understand that 'no' is just an opening bargaining position. They understand that no means no at this particular point. Kids also understand that we tend to be influenced by others, so when you say no to a child, they don't take it as final answer. Instead, they go over your head, and they tend to persist."

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-- Posted: January 6, 2010
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