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Negotiate like Michelangelo

When you are in the nitty-gritty of planning your next negotiation, you need to think about your opening position(s). How far should you go? If you’re selling, should you open higher than you know they can agree to? And vice-versa if you’re buying. This means that you would have to move from your position until you find the point at which they can agree.

Or should you open at a position which you know they can accept so that you don’t risk losing credibility and trust by moving, or set a precedent for next time?

Here’s what Michelangelo thought about it: ‘The greatest danger for most of us in not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it.’

If you are a bit bolder in your opening position, then this will have 3 benefits:

  1. You will manage their expectations – they will already be thinking that they may need to settle for less in this negotiation.
  2. As you move from it you will engender a sense of achievement for them. They will feel like they are beating you, which is how you want them to feel (if your ego allows).
  3. As you move you are also more likely to prompt a move from them, as the law of reciprocity states.

The biggest consideration is not whether you move, but how you move. Movement is essential in negotiation, so you need to consider the size of you moves and what you link them to (conditions). If you open with no room for movement, what are you going to do? Dig your heels in and expect them to make all the moves?

We talk about opening positions and the implications of other tactical considerations on our programs.

anchoring, negotiation, planning, tactics

Dan Hughes

He has specialised in negotiation consulting since 2005, and set up his own business in 2012 bringing this expertise to businesses small and large in all parts of the world. This company - bridge][ability ltd - runs behavioural and strategic planning negotiation skills programs which transform capabilities and has a client list which includes Tesco, The FA, Fujitsu, Capita, Reiss, Take 2 Interactive (the company behind Grand Theft Auto), BBC Worldwide and Channel 4.