Negotiation Mistakes 2 – Not listening

comedy sumo suit, argumentative stanceThis is mistake number two that you can easily make when you are negotiating. Very often you are so keen that the other party hears what you have to say, that you don’t listen to them.

Even if they do talk it’s very easy to ignore what they are saying. Or even to talk over them.

This means that your arguments are often badly targeted because you are not using the information you could be using.

If you are just hearing a few bits of what the other party has to say, it’s very easy to jump to conclusions and go off in all the wrong directions.

You tend to fill in the blanks yourself instead of finding out the facts from the other person.

The trouble is you often think you know what the situation is so it doesn’t even occur to you to check, let alone find out. This makes you look stupid, but that’s a minor problem. The real impact is that you often end up with a far worse deal than you could have had if you had been listening.

What Can You Do?

The first thing is to listen to the other party and find out as much as you can about their situation. It’s really important to understand them, how they are feeling, what is worrying them and what their needs are (we’ll look at that in more depth in another article).

The Most Difficult Situation

This is usually when you are faced with a negotiation and have had no warning. You suddenly find yourself right in it and are having to fight your corner. So instead of listening to the other person, you state your demands.

Easier Situations

It’s easier when you do have some notice (as you often do for the situations most people think of as negotiations). When you are in this fortunate position, you can prepare.

Some of the most useful preparation you can do is to find out about the other person and their situation. From this you can build up a list of questions to ask them.

Don’t just focus on what they want out of the negotiation. Find out about their background and what’s important to them. This is crucial to the negotiation. It will tell you a lot about the type of agreement they will be happy with.

Strangely it can be more important than their needs.

Find out what you have in common.

People tend to like people they have something in common with more than those they don’t. And it’s much easier to reach agreement with people you like.

It could be anything at all. They like a film you like; they know someone you know; they share your interest in lizards.

Many years ago I lived in a small London flat. I needed to get the kitchen tiled, but you just couldn’t get a workman to come along for such a small job. Finally I got someone to come and give me a quote.

He was a rough-looking guy, about my age with brown curly hair and of strong, muscular build. His accent sounded very familiar as he told me that the job just was too small to be worth his while.

I was really disappointed. I mentioned his accent and asked him where he was from, just to make conversation. “Hemel.” He replied. “Hemel!” I exclaimed. “Where in Hemel?” “Bennets End.” He said.
I made a leap. “Were you at Longdean?” I asked. “Yes.” He responded, astonished. “But it was Apsley when I started.” “I was at Longdean.” I told him.

His face lit up. “When were you there?” He asked eagerly. It turned out that he was from the year above me at school. We happily discussed some of the teachers we both hated and I made him a coffee.

“Oh dear.” He sighed. “I’m going to have to do those tiles now, aren’t I?”

There’s Always Something

Over the years I’ve worked with many different people. I have always managed to find something I have in common with every one of them. As soon as you form some kind of bond with a person, communication just becomes easier. Even if it’s just that you hate the same French teacher.

So do your background work and build on what you have in common.

What If You Have No Preparation Time?

In that case, do your best not to dive in to the actual nitty gritty of the negotiation till you have established a connection. If you already know the individual, you still need to find out what’s happened and what’s important to them about this situation.  You’ll find this will make any negotiation much easier.

Protect Your Brain

Boost Your Brain product imageAs part of her research on the brain Marian Diamond did some experiments to find out how effectively rats could recover from brain damage and if their brain development would have any impact on the recovery.

She had three types of rat:

  • The impoverished rats that had grown up in a cage on their own with no stimulation
  • The normal rats that had a few friends and a toy or two
  • The enriched rats that had 11 other friends and toys that were changed weekly.

Brain Differences

The brains of these rats were markedly different. The first group had very few connections between the neurons (brain cells) because their dendrites had not developed well.

The second group had more connections.

The third group had easily the most connections

She damaged the part of the brain that controls the right paw in each of the rats.

The “enriched” rats recovered the use of their paw almost completely. The impoverished rats never did.

Brain Damage

It’s easy to damage your brain. Your brain is the consistency of butter. If you hit your head, you may damage your brain. Now, I know you do your best to look after yourself. But, keeping your brain active will also give you the ability to recover if you should be unfortunate enough to get some kind of brain injury.

If someone you know is in that dreadful position, help them to become as active as possible. Physical movement is very important in helping your brain to make connections.

Even small things at first.

A Story of Recovery

Ben came to one of my seminars on the brain years ago. I talked about this during the session. At the end he came up to me and told me that his daughter had been in a car accident and got brain damage.

The doctors said there was nothing he could do to help her recover. I suggested he help her get some exercise and movement.

He called me two weeks later to say he had already seen improvement. He was almost in tears.

Your brain can do these great things – give it a chance by keeping it active.

Find out what really makes you happy

Do you know what makes you really happy? Strangely, most people are not very good at identifying what makes them happy.

You need to be able to identify things that you know, after you’ve done them, will make you feel good.

What’s the best way to do this? I suggest that you keep a diary on how happy you are. To improve your skill at predicting your happiness, list out the things you are planning to do and estimate your score for happiness against each one of them before you do it.

Now, when you are in the middle of each one, write down your real score.

Some may be the same as what you predicted, but others you’ll find, will be completely different. It’s quite strange.

After a few days or weeks of this, you will be in a much better position to be happier. All you have to do is check your records and see what really does make you happy.

Refine It

  • As you get more practiced, you can measure things a bit more carefully. For example, monitor what’s going in more detail:
  • What makes you happy for longest?
  • What makes you happier than everything?
  • What impact do your moods have on your happiness?
  • Are there things that, no matter how you are feeling, make you happy?
  • Can you influence how you feel?
  • Can you decide to be happy, even when things are difficult?
  • Does money really make you happy?
  • What are the small easy things that make you happy?
  • How do others impact your happiness?

As you gather this information you will have far more control over your life and your ability to be happy. Enjoy!

Negotiation Mistakes 1 – Telling Instead of Asking

In these articles I’m going to take you through some of the key mistakes people make when they are negotiating. These mistakes are things you will have done without realising. Sometimes, you didn’t even realise you were in a negotiation so you weren’t paying attention. Other times you just didn’t realise that making this mistake would make your life harder.

Lastly you may have just got a bit out of control.

Telling people what they are going to do or need to do, or, worst of all: should do, is a really bad mistake.

Do you like it when someone tells you what to do? No, neither do I. Worse still, you usually find that when you do tell others what to do, their first response is to resist. Or they may even get quite aggressive.

What Can You Do Instead?

The difficulty here is that you behave like this because you think you are right. A very dangerous thought. So it’s easy to go bowling in telling others what they should do:

  • “You must refund my money”
  • “You should not treat people like that?”
  • “Sort it out, now!”

So the first thing you need to do is to calm down. Easier said than done.

Take some deep breaths. If possible, don’t try to deal with a situation that’s difficult while you are cross about it. Wait till you’ve cooled off.

Smile. Relax. Most importantly, assume that the other person is doing their best. And assume that they have not deliberately injured you. Take a lead from Jane Austen:

“We must not be so ready to fancy ourselves intentionally injured.”
It’s advice from Jane, Elizabeth Bennett’s sister in Pride and Prejudice. This can be hard at first, but you will find the results more than pay for themselves.

The Overpayment

I got an unexpected bill from our electricity supplier for £457.52. I was incensed. Fury hardly begins to describe my feelings as I read through the bill. They owed us over £1000 at the time (because we had started generating our own electricity using solar panels on the roof) and now they were charging us!

I had personally spoken to one of the people there and he had assured me that he would change the date of our bill so that our generation income would be taken into account when our next bill was issued.

But this had not happened. I sat down and drafted a very angry email to their customer services department and made sure that every important person I could find was copied in. Then I saved it in draft form. Then I sat down with my family and enjoyed a lovely Italian meal of pasta with courgettes and a glass of wine.

The next morning, I had mellowed. I thought of the chap I’d spoken with on the phone. He had been so helpful and kind. It had been his idea to change the date of the bill. He had seemed to be a reliable sort. I was convinced his intentions were excellent.

If this was true, then our bill must be some kind of error.
I went back to my computer and redrafted the email:

Dear Customer Services

Account number

Earlier this year we installed photovoltaic panels on our roof to generate power. We filled in all your forms (several times) and had an email from you (below) confirming that we were now part of the scheme. It would also seem from another email (from Barney Merrett which I have copied below) that somehow our details were not recorded correctly at the time you received our forms.

When I called asking when we would start to receive money for the electricity we had generated, I was told that our debit would go through in October but we wouldn’t be credited with the electricity we had generated till November, so would be charged and not get any money back for about six months. However the person I spoke to (a very helpful man) said he would change our billing date to 5th November so that this would not happen and the money we had generated would be taken off our bill. In other words we would not be charged in October.

I have now received your bill which indicates that you have debited £457.52 from our account. In fact, as far as I can tell, you owe us well over £1000, not including the £457.52 recently debited.

I’m sure this is a simple clerical error, just as the last one was.

However, I expect you can understand that this mistake on your part is extremely inconvenient for us.

We need the money credited back to our account.

I am sure, as a professional company, you will have procedures for rectifying mistakes like this, so please let me know how quickly you will be able to do this.

I look forward to hearing from you very soon. Many thanks in advance for your help.

I am pleased to report that they were able to resolve the problem very quickly.

Being unpleasant to people can cause all kinds of unnecessary problems and damage relationships with them. When you have made a mistake, I’m sure you’ve appreciated it when others have been generous in the response and treated you kindly. Now you know that, not only is it a nice way to behave, it’s also an effective way to negotiate.

This is because you find it much easier to treat others well and behave responsibly when you are treated in the same way.

Two Ways To Stop Interruptions

2 people in Aikido classDo you get annoyed by interruptions? There are two approaches you can take to dealing with interruptions:

  • Reactive
  • Proactive


This is where you find ways of dealing with interruptions that have already happened. It can improve matters a bit, but won’t reduce the number of interruptions you get in the long run.


This method can be a bit more work initially, but in the long term will make your life much easier.

Here are a couple of proactive actions you can take to start reducing your interruptions:
Work out why people interrupt you. Then identify the unnecessary interruptions. These could be things like:

  • People asking you for things you have already given them
  • People asking for things they have but are too lazy to look for
  • People interrupting you every time they have a problem instead of gathering five problems up and bringing them all in one go.

Identify the people who are your worst offenders in these areas.

Now, next time one of those people comes along with the offending interruption, gently steer them into better behaviour:

“I think I’ve given you that information three times already. What can you do this time to make sure you don’t have to ask me again?”
“Have you checked in the manual? I think you’ll find it’s there. Please do that before coming to see me next time, and only come when it’s something that isn’t in the manual, or you have tried it and can’t get it to work. I’ll be happy to help you then.”
“Hi John. Do you realise you have come to see me six times already and it’s just 11am? I know these are important issues, and I want to make sure that I have time to deal with them properly, so how about I set aside some time at 3pm and we’ll go through all the questions you have then?”

It’s all about encouraging people to behave in a way that is more reasonable. If you don’t do this you are actively encouraging them to make your life difficult.

2 Unusual Ways to Develop Social Skills

Boost Your Brain product imageYour brain has four main lobes or regions: Frontal lobes at the front, temporal lobes at the sides – near your temples, parietal lobes near the top and back of your head and occipital lobes at the back of your head. Under the occipital lobes is your cerebellum.  For many years people thought the cerebellum didn’t really do much. But they were wrong.

The Cerebellum contains about half your neurons. It helps you with

  • Social balance and skills
  • It is also linked with many parts of your brain including those responsible for:
  • Memory
  • Attention
  • Space perception
  • Body positioning
  • Spatial guidance

John Ratey works with people who have few social skills. He has found that improving people’s dancing skills helps to improve their social skills.

Also improving physical balance skills can improve social skills.

He suggests that all these things are to do with ‘balance’ in different ways. Dancing is a kind of stylised social exercise. It helps to develop the cerebellum and this then helps you to improve your social skills.

Another technique he suggests is to learn Tai Chi or any martial art where you need to develop an awareness of someone else.

Happiness Tips 1 – Plan To Be Happy

person turning a happy cartwheelThis is so simple and obvious that many people don’t even think about it. But you can do it with surprisingly little effort.

A client of mine had a very tough year-long task. I don’t think anyone of any sense would have said it was going to be much fun.

As we sat down for her first coaching session I asked her what she wanted help with.

“I’m going to be completely stressed out and exhausted by the time this is over.” She started.
“Is that your plan?” I asked.
She started to laugh. I got out my list of emotions.

“Here’s a list of emotions. It’s not exhaustive, but it’s a good starting point. Let’s go through it and see which ones you would like to feel by the end of this.” I said.
With a giant smile, she went through the list. She ticked

Contented, energetic excited, free, fulfilled, glad, good-humoured, happy, hopeful, inspired, optimistic, peaceful, pleased, proud, refreshed, relaxed, satisfied, secure, serene, stimulated, and thankful.

Her entire demeanour had changed completely. Instead of the hunched, grey, tense figure I had shaken hands with, I was faced with a woman glowing with excitement. Her cheeks were rosy and her eyes sparkling. She was very much back to her old self already.

“OK” I said. “Now we have something to work on. Let’s start our plan to get you there. “

The Plan

The first part of the plan was to look after her health. Doubtless this project was very demanding so she needed to be at the peak of performance to handle it well. Diet and exercise can help a great deal with this.
Then we started looking at the other issues that were likely to cause problems and work out strategies for each one.

By the end of the first session she was already laughing at her initial sentence and quite enthusiastic about the challenges that lay ahead.

You can do this too. Start by thinking how you want to feel, don’t be resigned to a lower standard than necessary or just assume it is likely that you will be unhappy. It’s a choice, not an accident.

For more tips on happiness and how to be happy, go to our “Free” Section on the web site. You can sign up there.

How To Say “No” Without Saying “No”

Do you find it hard to say “No”? Most people I get on my time management courses have a great problem with this; so don’t worry if you do.

I used to spend ages helping people to do this, now I have an easier way. Interested?

In order for this to work you will have to have a schedule (link to previous blog) with your task already entered.

Now you’ve got that, this is very easy.

When someone asks you to do something, instead of saying “Yes” when you really mean “No”, just say, “Let me check my schedule.”


This makes you sound like the professional, organised person you are. People are generally very impressed when you respond like this.

You then look in your schedule and let them know when you can slot in their request:

“I have a slot on Friday at 3pm, would that suit you?”

Sometimes they will even go away and ask someone else if they can see how busy you are.

Time To Think

This technique will also give you some breathing space, so you don’t find yourself accidentally agreeing to things that you really shouldn’t be doing.

You can even use this if someone stops you in the corridor. Just let them know you’ll get back to them as soon as you have looked at your schedule and make sure you do, so you look reliable.