In A Negotiation, It’s Not What You Know, But What People Think You Know

by drjim on January 9, 2015

In a negotiation, not everything is as it seems...

In a negotiation, not everything is as it seems…
Image Credit: Vector Hugo

I wish that I could tell you that I know everything that has to be known in this world. However, the truth is that I actually know very little when you consider all that there is to know. What this means is that when I walk into a negotiation, I’m really at a bit of a disadvantage – there are things about the negotiation that I don’t know. What can I do to turn this disadvantage into an advantage for me?

The Power Of Apparent Knowledge

Apparent knowledge is all about making the other side of the table believe that you know more than you do about a topic. There are a number of different ways to go about making this happen. The first is to for your reputation to precede you. If they’ve done research on you before the negotiations and the information that they’ve picked up tells them that you know what you’re talking about, then they’ll believe that you know your stuff. Another way to make this happen is for you to use buzz words – by using the language of the topic, you’ll come across as being very knowledgeable.

The power of apparent knowledge is that the other side will treat you with more respect. It really doesn’t matter if this respect is based on reality or perception; the end result is the same. One of the interesting things about apparent knowledge is that once it has established you as an expert, very rarely will anyone challenge you. Simply by staking a claim to having the knowledge means that nobody is going to challenge you on this.

Having apparent knowledge is all about confidence. When you enter the room, stride in like you know what you’ll be talking about. The other side will give you the benefit of the doubt until you give them a reason to believe otherwise. Just be careful and don’t allow the other side to probe you too much – you don’t want them to find out what you don’t know!

Two Ways To Use Apparent Knowledge In A Negotiation

Having all of the apparent knowledge in the world is not going to do you any good if you don’t know how to use it. There are two things that you are going to have to understand about apparent knowledge and how best to use it in order to be successful.

The first, and perhaps the most fundamental, thing that you need to know is that you don’t have to be an expert on a given topic in order to look like you are an expert on it. This is even truer if you can recognize when a pattern is starting to emerge during a negotiation.

What this means is that based on past experiences that you’ve had with similar issues or similar negotiating teams, you’re going to be able to anticipate how things are going to unfold. This is going to allow you to be able to take a step back and see the negotiation styles and negotiating techniques that the other side is going to be using. This will help you to reach a better deal.

The other thing that you are going to have to understand about using apparent knowledge is that during the negotiation you’ll probably end up using your knowledge of similar negotiations. However, the thing that you need to understand is that this negotiation is not the same as any negotiations you’ve participated in previously.

What this is going to mean for you is that although you may be tempted to use negotiating strategies that have worked in similar situations, don’t. You are negotiating with different people and no matter how similar the situations may seem, they are different. This is going to require you to keep your eyes open and develop a new strategy that is relevant to the situation that is at hand.

What All Of This Means For You

When any of us start a principled negotiation, we have an important job to do. The other side of the table will be sizing us up in order to determine just exactly how much we do or do not know about the subject that we’ll be negotiating about. No matter how little we may know, this is where apparent knowledge can help us out.

Representing to the other side that we know more about a topic than we really can significantly help our negotiating situation. Keeping our eyes open and recognizing emerging patterns in the negotiation can help to bolster our apparent expertise. We must always keep in mind that although we may think that we recognize a situation as one that we’ve dealt with before, we may be wrong and it may be different.

As negotiators we need to recognize apparent knowledge for what it is: a powerful tool for us to use in our next negotiation. We’ll never have the time to become an expert in every area of a negotiation. Let the use of apparent knowledge fill in any gaps that we may be bringing to the table and we’ll eventually be able to walk away from the negotiation with a better deal.

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

Question For You: What should you do if the other side starts asking detailed questions about your apparent knowledge?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

Although I’m sure that many of us have heard about negotiations that got hopelessly deadlocked, it turns out that in most cases a negotiation can always be kept on track so that you can reach a deal with the other side no matter what negotiation styles or negotiating techniques are being used. The key is to understand that you always have the power – you could walk away from the deal if you had to. Since we never want to do that, what we need to do is to understand how to work flexibility into our next negotiation so that we can find the multiple solutions that will work for us.

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