We Negotiate Every Day

Give and take techniques abound all around us. Thrift stores, movies, and mom give us several opportunities to see everyday negotiation action.

Wincing, Limited Authority, False Deadlines

Go to your local thrift store, flea market, or swap meet. Practice your negotiation techniques while buying a cheesy Hawaiian shirt. Here's how it goes ...

Merchant: "May I help you sir or madam?"

You: "Why yes, how much is this cheesy Hawaiian shirt?"

Merchant: "Ten dollars."

You: "Ten dollars!" (A wince, followed by silence)

Merchant: "How about eight dollars?"

You: "Eight dollars!" (Another wince) "My mom said I could only spend $5.00 on any cheesy Hawaiian shirt I wanted." (Limited authority)

Merchant: "Five dollars!" (Another wince)

You: "Yes, and we have to leave for home in five minutes." (False deadline)

Merchant: "Well, okay kid, I'll let you have it for five dollars."

You: "Ah, great", you say to yourself, "I really got him."

Merchant: (To himself) "That's the most I've gotten for one of these dogs in months!"

Silence In The Movies Weekend at Bernie's is a great example of silence in negotiation. Although Bernie is dead, nobody seems to notice. While propped up on a sofa at a party, dead Bernie receives an offer to buy his Porsche for $35,000. Bernie is silent. Minutes later he is offered $40,000. Bernie still says nothing. Then he is offered $45,000. More silence. Even when the offer tops $55,000, Bernie still says nothing. If we acted more like Bernie, we'd put a lot more life in our negotiations.

In Glengarry Glen Ross, there is a scene where Al Pacino loses a sale because Kevin Spacey volunteers information in front of Pacino's client without knowing the details of the negotiations. Pacino later tells Spacey, "You never open your mouth until you know what the shot is." Larry Winget, a Tulsa, Oklahoma based motivational speaker, says that you never volunteer unsolicited information because it's often used in objections later on.

Mom Knows Best (Pressure Technique)

Have you ever had a pushy person try to pressure you into a quick decision on an important matter? Yielding to this kind of pressure (which is really just another false deadline) can be disastrous.

Our moms knew this when we were kids. Remember when we would relentlessly badger our moms for a quick answer to a seemingly monumental problem? Mom would say, "If I have to answer you now the answer has to be no. But, if you give me some time to think about it, the answer might be yes."

Smart kids are usually willing to let up a little bit in return for the potential of a positive outcome.

This technique works great with pushy adults ... bosses, employees, spouses, etc. Try it. Mom knows best.

Keep your eyes open ... every day we are exposed to and impacted by negotiation techniques all around us.

The wise negotiator is a keen observer and an aggressive adapter of effective techniques occurring in his or her presence.


As a California Criminal Trial Lawyer with 28 years of courtroom experience, JOHN PATRICK DOLAN has handled everything from traffic tickets to death penalty murder cases. Dolan is a recognized California State Bar Certified Specialist in Criminal Law and a true courtroom veteran. He is AV (highest) Martindale-Hubbell rated.

As an author, JOHN PATRICK DOLAN has written twelve, best-selling books, including his classic Negotiate like the Pros?. He is a recognized international authority on negotiation and conflict resolution. And, just to show that he does not take himself too seriously, he is also the co-author of the wildly popular Lawyer's Joke Book?.

A communications veteran, John Patrick Dolan is a radio broadcaster and television legal news analyst appearing frequently on Fox News Channel, MSNBC, and Court TV. He has also been honored by the National Speakers Association as a member of the Professional Speakers Hall of Fame.

In addition to his professional legal experience, John Patrick Dolan serves as CEO of LawTalk? MCLE, Inc., a continuing legal education company.

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