Here is a scene that recently played out between my nine-year-old daughter and me one lazy Saturday afternoon in late December.
Her: Mum, can I have a treat?
Me: What kind?
Her: This piece of candy. (She holds out a Kit Kat impossibly left over from Halloween.)
Me: Okay, sure.
Her (after leaving the room and coming back): Can I have this lollipop, too?
Maybe all children do this. But it was at this point I started to lose my patience, and she knew it, too. This is not an uncommon practice for her to ask for more when I’ve already said yes to something else lesser and thought the deal was done. I favour people being upfront with what they want; give me the true starting point from which we are going to discuss something. I’ve long tried to instil this very notion with her, to be direct and not slowly circle in to what she’s really asking for.
In that moment I thought back to my law school negotiations class where we devoured Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In, and the methods colleagues and I later used in mediation and negotiations within our litigation practice. Neither side is likely to get everything they want — though they may try to start there, and often should — but somewhere in between. Moreover, it is usually a poor strategy to start negotiations with the absolute minimum you’re willing to accept and then try to work your way up. You’d certainly never try to sell a home that way.