Archive for October, 2010
From spending cuts and coalition politics to the Israel-Palestine talks, it’s hard to escape from negotiations these days. But according to Stuart Diamond, the Pulitzer prize-winning journalist, university lecturer and former adviser to the UN, it’s not just the movers and shakers of this world who should be focusing on how to negotiate, it’s all of us.
“Everyone instinctively wants to get more,” he says. “It doesn’t have to be more for me and less for you. It just has to be, well, more.” Now Diamond has turned his idea into a new book which shows us how to get what we want in a bewildering array of scenarios.
For example: a couple tries to board a plane after the gate has closed. They stand at the window and catch the pilot’s eye, pulling long faces. It works; the pilot feels sorry for them, and instructs the ground crew to let them on. “Without uttering a word, they got through to the decision-maker,” Diamond explains. “They focused on their goals, not the rights and wrongs. They made human contact, and encouraged the pilot to use his authority to help them.”
When dealing with a faceless corporation, however, different techniques are needed. “One of my students was served soggy french fries at McDonald’s five minutes before closing,” he says. “When the worker refused to replace them, my student calmly pointed to the McDonald’s Freshness Guarantee. He got his new french fries.” So what’s the theory? “He used the company’s own standards against them,” he explains. “That’s a persuasive way to reach your goals.”
In a “hard bargain” situation, however, it’s best to be incremental. “A great example is the movie Five Easy Pieces,” says Diamond. “Jack Nicholson is refused a side order of toast at a diner. He orders a toasted chicken sandwich and negotiates to lose the mayo, the butter, the lettuce, then finally the chicken. He leads the waitress step-by-step to his original goal.”
These strategies have a wide range of applications, says Diamond. Take children, for instance. “The key point is to let them into the decision-making process. If they say, ‘I want a biscuit now!’ you can ask, ‘Why now? It’s so close to dinnertime, will you take half a biscuit?’”
In the adult world, much negotiation takes place via email. “Emails are tricky because they have very little tone,” says Diamond. “They’re like tofu; they take on the flavour of whatever the recipient is feeling.” The answer? To add the tone back in. “Start with something like ‘Please hear this email as friendly’,” he suggests. “It will help soften the mood.” Other tips include starting an email with a line of smalltalk (“Hope you’ve recovered from your cold”), being up-front if you’re in a bad mood, approximating the other person’s communication style, and keeping emails short.
So if I do all this, what can be achieved? “The sky’s the limit,” Diamond says. “You could make £1m.” I pause for a moment. “How about £2m?”
How do you test a cookbook of hangover cures? Jake Wallis Simons started with cocktails, pear cider and a bottle of merlot
In search of a hangover cure
A night on the town with Milton Crawford, author of The Hungover Cookbook, followed by a 3-course curative breakfast. Nice. Well, sort of.
As I enter the dimly lit flat owned by Milton Crawford, I am reminded of a bit of vintage P. G. Wodehouse. Rather like me today, old Bertie Wooster is suffering from “morning head”, having attended a “rather cheery little supper” the night before. In the blink of an eye, Jeeves whips up a secret drink involving raw egg, chilli and Worcestershire sauce. Bertie knocks it back and is instantly revived: “The sun shone in through the window; birds twittered in the treetops; and, generally speaking, hope dawned once more.”