We’ll get to the negotiations part in a second.

I used to write editorials for the paper when I was in high school.  I basically had to come up with an argument, then list out reasons and points to support that argument.  It was kind of like being on the debate team, but I wrote instead of talked, and no one could talk back.

That didn’t necessarily make it any easier.  Coming up with a cohesive point is one thing, but trying to find ways to convince people to change the way they see something is another nut entirely.

One of the best strategies I learned through that experience is using something called “concessions.”

We’re not talking about cotton candy and pretzels at the hockey arena.  Making a concession in negotiations is essential conceeding a point.  In other words, you’re acknowledging that the other side HAS a point.  In doing so, you’re accomplishing two things: 1) you’re making the other person feel listened to, understood, and respected by showing them you see the value in what they want and/or believe, and 2) you’re showing that you’re looking at all sides of the equation, showing that you’re not just making a half-assed decision.

Let’s do an example.  Say that I’m talking to my friend Ryan about where to go for pizza.  He wants to go to Nino’s, and I want to go to Nuno’s.*

I argue my point, but first I start with a concession: “Y’know — you’re right.  Nino’s DOES have great tomato sauce.  And that’s a good place.  But Nuno’s is closer, it’s cheaper, and they’re having a two-for-one deal tonight.”

I’ve conceded that Ryan has a point and I understand his argument.  In doing so, he’ll be more likely to be open to my point of view and feel good about the exchange.

Arguments are usually much more hairy and complicated than this, obviously.  But you get the gist.  You can apply this tactic to any sort of business dealing or discussion; negotiating with a vendor, arguing with a partner, resolving issues with customers, etc.  The more people feel like you’re listening to them, the more the negotiations will end not just in your favor, but that both sides feel respected and positive.  I concede — this doesn’t always work.  But it helps.

* For the record, there are no pizza places nearby named Nino’s OR Nuno’s.  But I do have a friend named Ryan, and I believe he does like pizza.