When Negotiating, 30 Seconds to Set the Tone

By Katherine Tarbox, Senior Editor, REALTOR® Magazine

Daniel Shapiro

Daniel Shapiro

As the founder and director of
Harvard’s International Negotiation Initiative, Daniel Shapiro has had his hand in numerous discussions between dignitaries, terrorists, lawyers, business leaders, and even real estate practitioners. Shapiro, a trained psychologist, has embarked on a new field of study in trying to understand emotions as they pertain to negotiating. As a world-renowned academic, he travels across the globe teaching his ideas. Yesterday, he presented “Capturing the Power of Negotiation” at Northwestern University.

Shapiro argues that there are hundreds of emotions, and it’s often difficult to focus in on one when trying to come to a resolution. Instead, he believes one should focus on five core concerns: appreciation, autonomy, affiliation, status, and role.

The most important of these concerns is appreciation, and Shapiro believes that the tone of the negotiation is set within the first 30 to 60 seconds of the meeting. Before you sit down with the person you’re negotiating with, you should:

1. Fully understand the other person’s perspective.

2. Find merit in what they think.

3. Communicate your understanding to them.

Shaprio argues that appreciation is a powerful tool to set a positive tone for the meeting, and also helps you navigate the waters between getting what you want out of the deal while maintaining a relationship with the person.

Want to find out more? In November, Shapiro will present his studies first-hand at the 2009 REALTORS Conference & Expo in San Diego, and you can read more about his findings in the October issue of REALTOR® magazine. Also, Denver Nuggets General Manager Mark Warkentien recently attended Shapiro’s week-long course at Harvard Law School, and he shares his take-aways in the latest Sports Illustrated.

  1. Very good points. When I negotiate with someone who does NOT follow these three tips, I struggle the most with #2. Giving merit to them because I, frankly, don’t enjoy when ‘the game’ is started. In any event, I think having a good working relationship with the person sitting across from you, knowing that each needs to do what is in the best interest of their client, and wanting to come to an agreement are critical elements.

  2. These three points are great and a concise way to summarize how to approach the other side of the table. In addition I like the attitude of checking yourself before negotiating: Link

    Being less adversarial gets you further and affirmation of opposition is always the fastest way to common ground. I bet Daniel Shapiro will be a blast to see speak in San Diego!

  3. Great points. I have found that most people want to be heard and that their points are validated. Additionally, I have found it useful to uncover the other sides motivations for their positions. With this understanding it is much easier to find common ground and strike a win – win solution that everyone will be satisfied with.

  4. We need to be careful what we give up to get the deal done. For example, as it relates to foreclosures and short sales involving certain banks, requiring a prequalification of the buyer by their mortgage arm puts the buyer at an unfair advantage. It appears to be accepted practice, though some clients do not accept the practice and will walk away.

    We need to be wary of and specall out such practices. Speaking up should not be seen as not being willing to negotiate. While we always strive for win win, we do not want to tip the boat in favor of one party by virtue of their corporate status.

    The attitude and effort of the agents involved make a big difference too. It is a good thing when we appreciate the ohter agent’s position as it relates to their clients’ interests and it is a good thing when we are respectful of both the client and the agent on the other side of any transaction because without them there is no transaction.