Derek Sivers
You Can Negotiate Anything - by Herb Cohen

You Can Negotiate Anything - by Herb Cohen

ISBN: 0806541229
Date read: 2023-08-02
How strongly I recommend it: 10/10
(See my list of 360+ books, for more.)

Go to the Amazon page for details and reviews.

Everything is negotiable. Challenge authority. You have the power in any situation. This is how to realize it and use it. A must-read classic from 1980 from a master negotiator. My notes here aren’t enough because the little book is filled with so many memorable stories — examples of great day-to-day moments of negotiation that will stick in your head for when you need them. (I especially loved the one about the power of the prisoner in solitary confinement.) So go buy and read the book. I’m giving it a 10/10 rating even though the second half of the book loses steam, because the first half is so crucial.

my notes

Power is the capacity or ability to get things done.
It determines whether you can or can’t influence your environment.
It gives you a sense of mastery over your life.

All power is based on perception.
If you think you’ve got it, then you’ve got it.
You have more power if you believe you have power and view your life’s encounters as negotiations.

Most people firmly believe that they can’t negotiate.
This is a prime example of creating a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Force yourself to go outside your own experience by vigorously testing your assumptions.
You’ll discover, to your astonishment, that many of them are false.

Always have a sense of mastery over your situation.
Pick and choose your opportunities based upon your needs.
Don’t allow yourself to be manipulated or intimidated by those who aren’t concerned with your best interests.

You have the freedom to choose your attitude toward any given set of circumstances and the ability to affect the outcome.
You can play a much greater role than you thought in shaping your life and improving your lifestyle.

Unreality is the true source of powerlessness.
What we do not understand, we cannot control.

If life is a game, negotiation is a way of life.

You must be reality oriented - seeing things as they really are without passing judgment.
“See it like it is!”
Take into account hard-nosed realities affecting everyone.

In politics, poker, and negotiation, success derives not only from holding a strong hand, but from analyzing the total situation so cards can be skillfully played.
To influence an outcome, you must realistically analyze the other side’s position, as well as your own, in light of POWER, TIME, INFORMATION.

Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right.

Power isn’t good or bad.
It isn’t moral or immoral.
It isn’t ethical or unethical.
It’s neutral.
Power is a way of getting from one place to another.
You’re at position A (your present situation or predicament).
You want to go to position B (your objective, goal, or destination).
Power enables you to go from A to B.
It enables you to change your reality to achieve that goal.

When you complain about power, it’s because it’s being used in a manipulative, coercive, or domineering way; power over rather than power to. That’s power being abused, and the criticism is valid.
Or you don’t approve of power’s goal, if the desired end or destination is considered corrupt and exploitative, even the most appropriate means won’t make that end acceptable.
Other than in these two instances, I see no objection to the use of power.
Split power from its many possible goals.
The goals may be “good” or “bad,” but the power to implement the goals is a neutral force.
Electricity isn’t bad just because it can shock.
Wind isn’t bad because it occasionally makes tornadoes.
We need power to protect ourselves and to ensure that we have a sense of mastery over our lives.
You have plenty of power.
Use it to sensibly implement objectives that are important to you.

You owe it to yourself not to live by what someone else thinks you ought to do.

If you turn away because you believe you are helpless (“What can one person do?”), you’ll no doubt feel frustrated and wretched.
When people in our society believe they can’t, as individuals, make a difference, it’s bad for all of us.
“Powerless” people become apathetic and toss in the towel, which means others have to carry them on their backs, or they become hostile and try to tear down a system they can’t understand and don’t believe they can control.

Lynette Fromme attempted to gun down President Gerald Ford.
After her arrest, she explained, “When people around you treat you like a child and pay no attention to the things you say, you have to do something!”
The “something” Squeaky did was psychopathic and self-destructive.
She didn’t realize that she had other alternatives that were socially acceptable and legal.
A criminal act, regardless of its goal, is almost always an abuse of power.

Power is neutral.
It’s a means, not an end.
It’s indispensable for mental health and nonaggressive survival.

You have power if you perceive that you have it.
Even a prisoner in solitary confinement, desperate for a cigarette. (story)

Within reason, you can get whatever you want if you’re aware of your options, if you test your assumptions, if you take shrewdly calculated risks based on solid information, and if you believe you have power.

Believe firmly that you have power, and you’ll convey that self-confident perception to others.
You determine how they see, believe, and react to you.
Power is their perception that you can, and just might, bring about intended effects that they believe might help them or hurt them.
The Wizard of Oz: Who does the Wizard turn out to be? Just a bumbling old man with a smoke machine and a noisemaker.
In reality he had no power, but he exercised a great deal of power because everyone was convinced he had it.

The power of competition:
Whenever you create competition for something you possess, what you have moves up in value.
“I have a marvelous idea.”
“Have you discussed it with anyone else?”
“Yes, but they don’t think it’s worth very much.”
Your idea is devalued because there’s no competition for it.
But if in response to my question you reply,
“Yes … I talked it over with others at your level, and they said they’d like to hear more, because it sounds terrific!”
Through creating competition, you’ve made your idea valuable and desirable.
That’s why it’s easier to get a job when you already have one.

Scenario: You need a loan.
Is it good to approach the bank on bended knee and say, “Please help me. I’m destitute. Save my family from the horrors of bankruptcy. I can’t repay.” No.
Put on a suit. Wear an expensive gold watch. Have three of your friends - your entourage - outfit themselves the same way.
Walk through the bank, exuding the impression, “Hi there! I’m a top executive striding through the bank. Keep away from me with your lousy money … I don’t need it.”
By using the “Keep away from me with your lousy money” ploy, Lance was granted 381 loans by 41 banks.
Why did banks compete with each other to lend huge sums of money to Lance?
For three reasons:
Because other banks were lending him money, which for all practical purposes meant his credit was first-rate.
Because banks thought he didn’t need the money. That was their perception, based on the fact that he acted blasé. He seemingly hadn’t a care in the world.
Lance’s attitude was that he was doing banks a favor by giving them the opportunity to lend him money.
Most important, because he obviously had options.
He could borrow from any bank he wanted to, picking and choosing as he saw fit.
This put banks in dog-eat-dog competition with each other to push money into his hands.
When the same banks learned that Lance desperately needed these loans to pay back other loans, his sources dried up.
He perceived that he had options and capitalized on them.
He cashed in on the competition he created.
You should do the same whenever possible.
Above all, never enter a negotiation without options.

Anything that’s the product of a negotiation has got to be negotiable, including the price on the sign.
There was no Big Printer in the Sky.

The power of legitimacy.
Printed words, documents, and signs carry authority.
Most people tend not to question them.
Legitimacy can be questioned and challenged.
Use the power of legitimacy when it’s advantageous for you to do so and challenge that power when it’s advantageous for you to do so.
When someone says “the book says it right here”, I say, “Does that book mention my name? Does it indicate the location and address of my building?”
If they say, “Of course not!” I say, “Then I don’t think it’s my book.”
“You can’t argue with the book!” “Why not?” I asked.
“Because no one ever did it before!”
Think about the book I successfully challenged.
It was an IRS document, which was the product of a negotiation, drawn up by bureaucrats to interpret a regulation that was also the product of a negotiation.
Since the book’s position was the end result of a negotiation, the matter was negotiable.

Before you can hit the jackpot, you have to put a coin in the machine.
You must be willing to take risks.

Always induce the other side to invest in a situation.
That’s why your initial approach to a negotiation should always be collaborative, as though you’re hungry for help.
In negotiation, dumb is often better than smart, inarticulate frequently better than articulate, and many times weakness can actually be strength.
Train yourself to say, “I don’t know.”
Think of your own experiences when dealing with stupid people.
Your sophisticated arguments and persuasive devices are worthless when you’re dealing with a moron who can’t even comprehend what you’re talking about.
Don’t be too quick to “understand”.
Ask questions, even when you think you might know the answers.

The company’s presentation lasted two and a half hours.
The Japanese smiled politely and answered, “We don’t understand. Can you do it again?”

“We’ve found a house we’re crazy about. I want to buy it. Help negotiate the price?”
“What would happen if you didn’t get this dream house?”
He replied, “Are you kidding? I think my wife would kill herself! I think my kids would leave home! I’ll do anything for them! We just have to bring the asking price down.”
Take a guess. Did Smith pay $130,000 for the dream house or $150,000? You’re right, he paid $150,000. With his attitude he’s lucky he didn’t pay $160,000.
That house meant so much to him that he was unwilling to risk losing it. Because he cared too much.
Moral: Care, but never that much.
When you feel you have to have something, you always pay top dollar, and the other party can manipulate you with ease.

Have knowledge of the “odds,” plus a philosophical willingness to shrug your shoulders.
Take moderate or incremental risks: risks you can afford without being uptight about adverse consequences.
Before chancing anything, calculate the odds to determine whether the potential benefits are worth the possible cost of failure.
Be rational, not impulsive.
Never take a risk out of pride, impatience, or a desire to get it over with.

Wealth enables one to explore favorable opportunities, for the inherent risk is moderate.
It’s no more than bite-size.
In case of loss, the wealthy person can shrug.

Tap in on the power of expertise.
Most of us rarely question the statements of tax accountants, physicians, auto mechanics, attorneys, computer specialists, stock brokers, research scientists, professors.
If you want to present yourself as having expertise: Establish your background and credentials early in the confrontation.
The only kind of expertise required for most negotiations is the ability to ask intelligent questions and know whether you are getting accurate responses.

In all negotiations, there are two things being bargained for:
1. The specific issues and demands, which are stated openly.
2. The real needs of the other side, which are rarely verbalized.

Buying a car example:
I gather as much specific data as I can about the car itself.
Next, I find out as much as possible about the dealership.
Then, with respect to the dealer himself, I acquaint myself with his likes, dislikes, prejudices, and value system.
I find out if he’s the type who makes quick decisions or deliberate decisions.
I probe, observe, ask questions, and listen more than I talk.
This gives me valuable information that enables me to best structure the negotiation.
I then adapt my purchasing style to satisfy the real needs of the seller.

What do you know about the salesman’s needs or the store’s needs?
Is the salesman on salary, commission, or a combination of both?
What’s the inventory situation on this model?
Is it the store’s hottest item, currently on backorder, or is it a dog the store manager will dump at any price?
Is the store making a profit on this model? If so, how much?

Almost anything you say furthers the informational imbalance and strengthens the salesman’s hand.

If you have something difficult to negotiate, cope with it at the end of a negotiation, after the other side has made a hefty expenditure of energy and a substantial time investment.
What if the emotional issue or quantifiable item surfaces at the beginning of the negotiation?
Acknowledge it, chat about it, but put it off till later - returning to it only after the other side has spent a lot of time with you.
You’ll be surprised how the other side’s investment will cause them to become flexible at the end of the negotiation.

Your perception that I can and might help you or hurt you gives me “muscle” in our relationship.
The “actual, factual” reality of the situation is immaterial.
If you think I can and might do something to affect you (even though I can’t or won’t), I will exercise power in my dealings with you.
It’s perception, true or false.
No one will ever negotiate with you in any significant way unless they’re convinced that you can and might help them - or can and might hurt them.
In an adversary relationship, if you think I might help you or hurt you, I should never defuse your perception of my power unless I get something in return, such as a concession on your part, or a repositioning on your part, that truly benefits me or our relationship.

Jimmy Carter: Unfortunately, he immediately spelled out what we would or wouldn’t do.
In the eyes of some adversaries this promptly transformed us into a paper tiger, no more threatening than your neighbor’s kitten.
He made the unfortunate mistake of publicly eliminating options without getting something in return.

Don’t eliminate options and reduce the other side’s stress unless you receive quid pro quo.
Let them wonder until you have received what you’re shooting for.

Most people aren’t persistent enough when negotiating.
They present something to the other side, and if the other side doesn’t “buy” it right away, they shrug and move on to something else.
Learn to hang in there.
You must be tenacious.

Who’s the worst person you can negotiate for? Yourself.
You do a much better job negotiating for someone else. Why? Because you take yourself too seriously in any interaction that concerns you.
You care too much about yourself.
That puts you under pressure and stress.
When you negotiate for someone else, you’re more relaxed.
You’re more objective.
You don’t care as much, because you regard the situation as fun or as a game - which it is.
Regard all encounters and situations, including your job, as a game, as the world of illusion.
Pull back a little and enjoy it all.
Things are seldom what they seem.
Teach yourself to say, “Big deal,” “Who cares?” and “So what?”
You’ll get better results, because your attitude will convey your feeling of power and mastery of your life.

We fail to get adequate information because we regard negotiation as an event obtaining information under pressing deadline.
These conditions present enormous difficulties.
The actual starting point of a negotiation always precedes the face-to-face happening by weeks or even months. It’s a process.
Old horse traders never let the seller know which horse really interests them, because if they did the price might go up.
Learn what the other side really want, their limits, and their deadline.
How do you gather this information? You start early, because the earlier you start, the easier it is to obtain information.
You always get more information preceding an acknowledged, formal confrontation.
If you wait until the last minute, they say, “Come on … I can’t tell you anything now - it’s negotiation time!”
Quietly and consistently probe.

The more confused and defenseless you seem, the more readily they will help you with information and advice.
Ask questions even when you think you know the answers, because by doing so, you test the credibility of the other side.
You want to know the real limits on the other side, that is, the extent beyond which they will not go.
The more information you have about their financial situation, priorities, deadlines, costs, real needs, and organizational pressures, the better you can bargain.
And the sooner you start to acquire these data, the easier they will be to obtain.
You have to give information in order to get some in return.

Tactic that is identified for what it is - a tactic that’s seen through - is ineffective.

Never negotiate with anyone totally lacking in authority.
In most instances, an order-enforcing subordinate is simply a mouthpiece, acting in a robotlike manner.
Sidestep robots.
Negate any policy that’s detrimental to your interests by taking a step upward.
The person who gives the policy can also take it away.
Every organization is a hierarchy.
Steadily go up the ladder, rung by rung, until you get satisfaction.
The higher you go, the more likely you are to have your needs met.
Why? Several reasons:
People who are higher up understand that general rules were never meant to cover every specific situation.
They’re more aware of the Big Picture and can visualize the fall-out that might result from improper handling.
Even more significant, they have greater authority and get paid to take some risks and make decisions.
I had a reservation at a magnificent hotel.
Unfortunately, the hotel could not honor it.
The registration clerk announced that all rooms were filled.
I asked to see the manager. I lit a cigar, rested an elbow on the marble check-in counter, and asked the manager, “What if the president of Mexico showed up? Would you have a room for him?”
“Sí señor …” I blew a smoke ring toward the ceiling.
“Well, he’s not coming, so I’ll take his room.”
Did I get a room? You bet, but I had to promise that if the president arrived, I would vacate immediately.

Never allow yourself - or anyone who negotiates for you - unlimited authority.
The worst person you can negotiate for is yourself.
When you handle your own negotiations you have total authority, and it’s easy to make snap decisions without making proper use of your time.
How can you get around this? By imposing checks and balances on yourself.
By deliberately limiting yourself, being obedient to your own dictates.

Don’t negotiate on the phone.
Saying no on the phone is easy.
Being unreasonable on the phone is easy.
Saying no and being unreasonable face to face is something else again.
It’s easy for people to shaft others if they don’t see them in personal terms.
Don’t let yourself become a bloodless statistic.

We all want something. Prestige, freedom, money, justice, status, love, security, recognition, etc.