My Dad recently passed away at 91. He taught me a ton about life and negotiation. Here are my five biggest negotiation takeaways from his over 60 years of negotiating as a lawyer, political and community activist, and father.
1. Set Aggressive Goals and Go For It!
Negotiation success starts with aggressive goals, especially long-term ones. Not too aggressive. They must be realistic. But don’t undervalue what you want to achieve. Believe in yourself, your matter, or your deal. Worst case, you can always accept less. You’ll rarely get more, though. Dad always told me to go for it.
He also knew you would not always achieve your goals. He did much more often than not, though. It’s no surprise he was elected one of the youngest Minnesota state legislators in history in 1958.
2. Rely on the Power of Respectful Relationships
Growing up, it seemed like my Dad knew everyone in Minnesota. Of course, he didn’t. Yet it’s remarkable how his wide-ranging and diverse relationships impacted his legal and other negotiations. Whether it was a judge, a business leader, a senior partner at a law firm, a former political colleague, a fellow community board member, or even a family friend. They all made a difference.
How? They were negotiation counterparts, experts in cases, clients, referral sources, business investors and partners, fellow non-profit fundraisers and board members, and the list goes on.
These were not surface relationships, either. My Dad respected them – and they respected him.
One story I will never forget. One year, a young state representative lost a close re-election. Two people called him after he lost. One was my Dad, who used to lobby the legislature (which is all negotiation). That legislator ran again several years later and won. He never forgot.
3. Cut through everything to find the real interests
My Dad had a talent for cutting through the fluff and honing in on what really drove his counterparts. How? One, he had a sincere desire to uncover their true interests. Two, he carefully listened and probed and asked. And three, he relied on his network of relationships to gather information and test his assumptions and conclusions.
This might sound easy. It’s not. It takes practice and skill. My Dad learned this the hard way, as he often told me about his tendency to be outspoken in his younger years. Diplomacy was a learned art for him.
4. Support with reasons
A few weeks ago, I asked my 16-year-old son to do something – and he responded by asking me “why.” I felt like saying “because I said so” or “because you live under our roof.” But I didn’t. Instead, I explained my rationale.
I also smiled inwardly, because my Dad used to do the same to me. It’s also a very effective negotiation technique, as reflected by my Third Golden Rule of Negotiation: Employ “Fair” Objective Criteria. Basing your moves on powerful independent benchmarks like market value, precedent, expert opinions, efficiency, costs, policy and other standards increases their likelihood of being accepted.
This also helps put that “fair and reasonable” hat on your head, depersonalizes negotiations, and helps strengthen your relationships with your counterparts.
5. Listen carefully and deeply
My Dad loved to talk and debate. He was an old school trial lawyer. He also loved to ask and listen. Crucially, he knew when to do one and not the other. Clients loved him for this. And it stood him in very good stead in negotiations – where he asked and listened a lot more than he argued and debated.
Latz’s Lesson: Thanks Dad for teaching me to more effectively negotiate. These powerful lessons will help everyone achieve their goals.