The Best Negotiators Know That They Can Learn From Children

by drjim on September 2, 2016

It turns out that all of us can learn to negotiate better from children

It turns out that all of us can learn to negotiate better from children
Image Credit: Zoriah

As negotiators, we all want to become better at what we do. Now, there are a lot of different ways to go about doing this. We can attend fancy course, read a lot of books, or even watch countless hours of videos in order to develop our negotiation styles and negotiating techniques. However, it turns out that there may be a much more simple way for us to sharpen our negotiating skills. The more time that we spend with children, the more we may learn about effective negotiating.

High Aspirations

When you have an opportunity to observe children in a situation in which they are using their negotiating skills, you’ll quickly see that they always shoot for the moon. They go into a negotiating situation with high aspirations – they want the world. They know that if you have lofty goals for a negotiation, then more often than not you’ll end up getting more than you may have expected to get. The one thing that you don’t want to do is to start a negotiation thinking that you are not going to get what you want – only an adult would do that!

The Decision Making Process

Most of the negotiations that a child participates in occur in a family situation. What that means is that the child has an intimate understanding of just exactly what the decision making process in the family is. They may start the negotiations with mom. If they are unable to get the deal that they were shooting for, then more often than not the negotiations will flow to dad. If they are unsuccessful there, all is not lost. They realize that they can always reach out to grandparents in order to attempt to get current positions changed.

“No” Is Just A Starting Point

Finally, as adults when we are told “no” in a negotiation we tend to believe that the negotiations are now over. Child negotiators believe no such thing. To them a “no” just means that the line of discussion that they were pursuing has come to an end. Now it’s time to back things up, pick a new path and start the negotiations all over again. What we can learn from our young negotiators is that in the world of negotiations, it’s not over until it’s over.

What All Of This Means For You

Every negotiator is always seeking ways to become better. We have a number of different ways that we can go about doing this, but it turns out that one of the most effective may have nothing to do with how we generally learn things. Instead, by spending more time with children we can pick up tips on how to sharpen our negotiating skills.

Children have a built in ability to have high aspirations when they enter into a negotiation. They seem to understand that the more that you shoot for, the more that you’ll be able to walk away with. They fully understand their family’s decision making process and they know who is the ultimate source of a final decision. Finally, long experience has taught them that “no” is not an ending point in a negotiation. Rather, it is often just the starting point.

In our busy lives it can often be all too easy to overlook the children that play a role in our world. However, because of what they can both remind and teach us about how to be an effective negotiator, it may be well worth our time to slow down and spend more time with them. The next principled negotiation that you enter into you’ll have all of the skills of a child and that just might be enough to get everything that you want!

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Negotiating Skills™

Question For You: Do children allow you to take back concessions or do they see the world as being a fixed place?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

More than once when I’ve been involved in a negotiation with all of its negotiation styles and negotiating techniques, there has come a point in the negotiations when the other side has put down their pen, looked at me, and said “so what’s it going to be: option A or option B?” Ouch, talk about being placed in a tight spot. However, it turns out that as a negotiator, you actually have more options.

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