Part of the skills required of a lawyer is the art of negotiation.
I still remember my time as a street kid living in Singapore. Coming from a family of 10, Lawrence ( my other brother who was a year older than me) and I used to play in the streets of Tiong Bahru in Singapore. Mum did not have much time for supervision and we were left to our own devices as long as we got back by dinnertime.
Tiong Bahru is a suburb in Singapore which is quite notorious as being the playground of gangsters.
Lawrence and I used to hang around a store that had bulk bananas delivered from Malaysia. We would help the labourers unload the branches of bananas. As payment, we would get the left over bananas to bring home.
Lawrence and I used to set up stall in the Tiong Bahru markets as hawkers to sell the bananas for spare cash. It was not a lot of money , but it did teach me the art of negotiation. Selling bananas without a proper stall is of course called “hawking” which was technically an offence.
The authorities had “Environmental officers” who were there to make sure there were no hawkers in the market. It was like playing cat and mouse. Every time, there was an officer, all the hawkers would make a run for it. Great fun when we were kids. But not something I recommend as it is not strictly legal. We were minors, and reckless. I knew nothing of the law then.
So what is the art of negotiation. I suppose the main lesson is that “If you do not ask , you will never receive”.
Negotiating is like playing poker. You do not know what the other side is ready to accept.
It is of course easiest if you are unemotional. They say emotion is an irrational master.
My ten rules for negotiating:
1. Be unemotional. If you are going to be emotional, get someone else to negotiate for you.
2. Always know your bottom line before hand.
3. Try to find out as much as possible what weaknesses the other party has. Do they have to sell? Are they time poor?
4. Do your research first regarding the value of anything you are negotiating on.
5. Do not be afraid to walk away from the deal.
6. Know who the main actor is. There is no point in negotiating with someone who is not making the decisions.
7. Be creative with the way the deal will work. Think of all permutations that can work for all parties. In fact, write down all the permutations first before negotiating.
8. Avoid negotiating where there is stress on time or anger issues.
9. Ask questions of the other party as by asking questions, you get to know what the other party want. If you can give it to them, the deal can be closed.
10. The most important part: Never be embarrassed to make the final “ask”. If you ask if they will settle on your final position, the worse that can happen is that the other party says no. But if you do not ask, you do not know.
Negotiating is something that we have to do all our lives. We negotiate with our spouses, our kids, our bosses or workers.
Everything is negotiable.
So, the more we learn the art of negotiation, the better we become. Good luck.