August 2, 2012

Everything you need to know to be a great negotiator you learned before kindergarten! Children are born with basic needs and limited communication skills. They quickly learn to make sounds to be fed, changed, and put down for naps. As their communication skills improve, they become more manipulative. They are persistent and they play one parent off against the other.

A recent study found that when parents are adamantly opposed to something their child wants, if the child asks nine times the parents relent. Children learn to be patient, and they are taught that you get more with honey than you do with vinegar. They thus work to make their parents feel guilty when they don’t give them what they desire.

They also recognize one critical factor that most adults do not appreciate. There is no such thing as bargaining power, but only the perception of it. If one side recognizes that the other party possesses bargaining power and that party knows how to exploit it, that party has a real advantage. On the other hand, if the other side does not believe that this party possesses bargaining power, this party will have a problem. Although parents think that they possess bargaining power over their children, their kids ignore this factor and effectively undermine the ability of their parents to use it.

Several years ago, a student told me a great story. When she was younger, she and her brother had a dog they loved. It got old and passed away. Their request for another dog was rejected by their father who suggested that they had failed to take proper care of the dog they had. She asked him repeatedly for a puppy without success. One evening he came home, and she indicated that she wanted to get a monkey. He panicked, and that evening she had a puppy! I asked her what she would have done if her father had been sufficiently sophisticated to suggest that they go to the pet shops to look for a monkey. She looked shocked, and indicated that she had no interest in a monkey and only wanted another dog.

Parents spend a fortune to educate their children, who forget everything they learned about negotiating as children. They then have to take a course to relearn what they had already discovered before kindergarten!