The best negotiators know that the success of a negotiation depends largely on preparation and how well you know, or can ascertain, what is truly important to all parties in the deal. The more you know about what the other person really wants or needs, the better able you are to construct a deal that gives you what you need while making sure she gets enough of what she needs to get the deal done. More information equals more power.
It stands to reason then that the opposite is also true, that the more the other knows about your motivation, the more power she has to construct the deal. The problem is, is that power going to good or evil? Is the information being used to construct a deal where everyone wins or to figure out how much youíll likely give to get what you want? If you let someone know how badly you need to deal, or how much youíll really pay, or what onerous terms youíll put up with, you are giving her power to use against you.
But, you say, Iím not an idiot, of course I wonít tell them how desperate I am or what my real bottom line price is. And of course, you would never do so intentionally. But itís funny how those things have a way of becoming apparent when you start sharing general information. As we mentioned last week, you give your opponent power when you let it be known that you are really eager to close. And though you may think you are being cagey about what youíll really pay, you give hints to your perception of value every time you mention anything about how eager you are to finish the transaction, or that you want to take a vacation next week, or that your boss is making you crazy to get this project finished. Until you start paying attention with a negotiator's eye and ear, you may be very surprised about how much power you give away in everyday conversation.
If you mention in passing that a larger and very expensive project is dependent upon this little detail, youíve given up power. If, on the other hand, you engage your partner in the negotiation in a discussion of her business needs, you are re-leveling the playing field. Iím assuming here that all my readers intend to be honorable negotiators and youíll use the information you gain to move towards a solution that works for everyone. If thatís the case, give some small bits of information and see if the other party reciprocates. Try your best to establish a negotiating position of balance for the greater good. But donít give away too much to quickly, lest you learn much later that your sparring partner had motives less noble than yours.
Information, shared judiciously, can make any negotiation better and the end result strong. But you canít assume that everyone shares these honorable goals. Until you feel confident that trust is due, hold your information close. Knowledge, after all, really is power.