The art of negotiation is truly an art. Either you’re skilled enough to win, or you’ll stumble to the finish line as a loser. Those are the only two possible outcomes.
Depending on the deal, the difference in winning and losing could mean securing your dream job or entering unemployment, getting a deal or getting ripped off $10 grand, and building a million dollar business or going bankrupt.
But like many things in life—how to write a winning resume, who to marry, how to make money, how to invest—no one teaches negotiation.
Our parents: only if we’re lucky. The school system: fails at this. The government: nope.
If government and corporations had it their way, we’d never learn to negotiate so we would have to take the short stick without complaining. That’s just wrong.
Since you’re reading this article, you’re on the right path though. Because the first step is to want to know how to negotiate better.
The second step is to learn how…
“He Who Cares Less, Wins”
Emotions can often be helpful.
For example, you should feel love toward the person you’re about to marry before you go through with it. Duh!
Or you should feel sad when your parents are getting old and sick. That sadness can help you appreciate them better and prioritize quality time going forward.
But in the negotiation arena, emotions will kill you before you know it. It’ll be like a sniper with his finger on the trigger and a red dot on your chest—it’s already too late for you.
Why do emotions kill negotiation ability? It’s mainly because feelings cloud judgement.
Your brain focuses on how it’s feeling instead of reason, logic, and answering does the math work for you to go forward. Insecurities also come into play, which can make you do the opposite of what you intended.
Clouded judgement leads to rash decisions and often buyer’s remorse.
It also costs you real dollars.
This study found anxious negotiators were more likely to take deals 12% less financially attractive than their counterparts. If it’s a 12% loss off a $500,000 mortgage, we’re talking about $60,000. That’s a big deal!
But consider someone’s approach who couldn’t care less about winning the deal: They’re relaxed. They speak clearly and listen carefully. And they’re focused on the specific details of what they’re getting and giving.
Not to mention they hold the leverage because they don’t need the deal. If it helps them they’ll take it, but by no means are they getting on their hands and knees to beg for it like a dog.
It’s not hard to figure out that someone who is relaxed and focused performs better than someone who is scatterbrained and under pressure.
This explains precisely why caring less helps you win.
Plus, when you care less, you can’t lose. You either win the deal on your terms or you leave it on the table as a draw.
Caring less is precisely how you ensure you never make a bad deal that takes the shirt off your back. Those deals are the unrecoverable ones that will leave you unable to sleep at night.
Let’s check out how caring less comes to play out in day-to-day scenarios.
Real Life Negotiations
Negotiation happens everywhere, all the time.
You probably just miss it or don’t label them as deal-making.
To open your eyes and get a grip on how this goes down, read these four examples about how negotiating the right way changes the entire landscape.
1. Grad school admissions: Whether a grad school accepts you and how much money they give you comes down to 100% negotiation.
The university is negotiating to get the best students in their class (and fill the seats to make money). You’re negotiating to get into the school and make the best choice for yourself.
If you’re a top candidate with acceptances to all the elite schools, the game is on to negotiate the best offer package. You’ll want to negotiate for a fat scholarship, maybe a stipend, and see if you can get anything else (like a teaching assistant job) to entice you to come.
If you have average grades and admissions test scores, you’re playing a game of negotiating to get into better schools with no scholarship or less reputable ones with scholarship money. Use the acceptances into the better schools as leverage to get more money.
2. Buying a car: This is the classic negotiation scenario used from personal finance bloggers to authors. (Maybe because just about everyone buys a car and has room to negotiate.)
If you’re like most people, you’ll arrive at the lot and make a beeline to the car you want. Then tell the salesman, “I’ve always wanted this car. It’s perfect. How much is it?”
Their signals are telling them you’re an easy sale and to negotiate little. You cost yourself potentially thousands of dollars.
But say you come back another day after reading this article and bring a more tactical approach. Instead of making a straight shot to one car, you tell the salesman, “I don’t have any particular car in mind. I’m not sure I really need a car to be honest. Just had some free time and wanted to look around.”
You ask about a few car prices then “randomly” stumble on the one you actually want to ask the price, without being too excited (care less).
This is how the playing field gets tilted. The salesman is now the desperate one trying to both find you the right car and sell it to you.
And when you negotiate, you have to make an offer and be prepared to walk away with nothing (that’s a draw not a loss). There are plenty of stories where someone walks and the dealer calls them back the next day to drop the price to get the deal done.
This scenario works when buying a house, motorcycle, boat, and all other related-purchases.
3. Job offer and salary package: I feel strongly about this one. You have to negotiate your salary if you like yourself!
There’s free money on the other side if you do this well. That’s why I dedicated an entire section of my money book to salary negotiation, and have written about this multiple times on TYS. (See here and here.)
Let’s break it down (assuming you’ve been offered the job): The company is negotiating to get you on their team at a fair (or cheap) price, and you’re negotiating to get the job at a higher price.
Communicating you have other employment options and while you’d love to work here you know you may have to decline the deal, can often make the employer want you more. Odds are they fork over the extra money and hope you pan off as a long-term investment.
But if you don’t know how to negotiate and say, “I accept this,” the second after they tell you the salary offer, there’s no extra money for you. The reason you have less money is all your fault.
4. Business projects: Business comes down to negotiation across the board. If you’re an employee, freelancer, or small business owner, you need to know how to persuade the other side to get the deal and price you want.
Bad business negotiation means being in a place of desperation where you take contracts even if it’s 10%, 25%, or 50% your normal rate. The desperation will come through in your communication and be the reason you get taken advantage of in broad daylight.
A smart employee should recognize your company’s price is your price, and not care if you lose the deal because the person on the other side only values cheap labor, and not high quality work.
A freelancer should know the value in their work, price it accordingly, and have a take it or leave it mentality with clients. There’s always more work to be won instead of compromising your skill for cheap labor.
A business owner should double their rates to bring in more revenue (assuming they have a solid product, sales, and marketing), while not caring if they lose their smaller clients. That’s the quickest way to bring in more money, and it sure beats getting nickel and dimed on project rates.
Everything is negotiable.
Knowing that, it’s your job to care less by having more options on the other side in case you don’t get what you want.
How do you get more options? The single best way is to work hard and provide value so you become financially well off.
Poor people are often in desperate, emergency-like situations where they can’t afford to shop around for a smart transaction. Where the rich have more time and opportunities to ensure they win the negotiation.
With wealth also comes the freedom to need less and become beholden to no one. This self-reliance empowers you at the negotiation table to only make deals if the numbers make sense to you.
You’re in a position of power when you’re finances are taken care of regardless what happens in these daily negotiations.
As you keep living, keep your eye out for negotiations big and small. Seeing them go down will give you mental reps and prepare you for your day-to-day negotiations.
Caring less about what you want, ironically gives you a better chance of getting it.
Related: Everything Is Negotiable