In any negotiation of consequence, you want to learn as much as you possibly can. Of special significance is the opportunity to know as much as feasible about the people on the other side of the table. What are their goals, hopes, and preferences? How do they see the situation currently being discussed? What are their typical methods? How do they formulate ideas about fairness and even-handedness? What will they do if no deal can be accomplished? How do they see you? And on and on…
It turns out that you want know pretty much everything, limited only by time pressure and a cost-benefit analysis concerning the collection of the marginal extra bit of knowledge. Absent time or cost, though, you probably want to learn absolutely everything possible about them.
Well, I have some good news for you in that regard. You are sitting across the (metaphoric) negotiating table from a group of the world’s greatest experts on the subject of them. Like most people, they are interested and excited by the subject of themselves. Given the right circumstances, they will be delighted to talk at length, and in great detail, about that subject. You are perfectly positioned to learn more about them.
You may be worried about the danger that they might lie to you. And, indeed, they probably will – at least a little bit. Human beings are like that when trying to attain their goals. But that risk is not a reason to refrain from gathering all the information they are willing to offer you. Indeed, the problem of their less than complete truthfulness is one that can be successfully managed. As discussed more fully in Negotiating Your Investments: Use Proven Negotiation Methods to Enrich Your Financial Life , the key is to separate their answers into two categories. You will, of course, find virtual treasure in what they tell you unencumbered by any motivation to fib. But you will also get valuable information from what they choose to tell you where their incentive to dissemble is great.
In the end, the negotiation lesson is a simple one. Do what the very best negotiators make a habit of. When interacting with the other side, be sure to take full advantage of the golden opportunity presented. Choose to gather, listen and learn all you can. In becoming a more knowledgeable negotiator, you will become a better one.