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Influence, Persuasion and Negotiation

Hunter Shannonhouse

“You’re fine the way you are!”


If I’ve taught you, you may have heard me say that. What I mean when I say this is that you don’t need to change your personality to be a good negotiator. You don’t need to be more aggressive, nor do you need to be more charismatic.


But that isn’t to say that you wouldn’t benefit from upskilling or building your confidence. However, making adjustments in these areas is a far-cry from feeling like you need a personality transplant to be a good negotiator. If you do feel like a personality change is in order, then perhaps you find it hard to be authentic, to use an already over-used word.


Yet it’s true. If you’re not being yourself, others can feel it. They may not know what it is that is making you, and therefore them, uncomfortable, but it’s there. More often than not they won’t react well to it and it is unlikely they will reveal their discomfort to you. But now you’re on the back foot and everything is harder from here.


What does this have to do with influence and persuasion?


At least two things.


It is far easier to influence people if they trust you. Conversely, if they are feeling like there is a hidden agenda, regardless of their overt awareness of it, they will find it harder to trust you fully.


Secondly, if you are trying to be something you are not, you are probably focused too much on yourself. If you have too much focus on yourself, you are significantly undermining your own efforts.


Look at it this way. David Maister postulates that trust is the total of how much someone thinks you are reliable, open and credible divided by how much they think you are self-interested. If that is true and if self-focus can be interpreted as self-interest (perhaps incorrectly), it will be very easy for you to undo a lot of your rapport and trust-building.


What to do.


  1. Keep building on and refining your negotiating skills. That will give you more confidence. And with more confidence you will be less focused on yourself.
  2. If you notice that you are focused on your nerves, how you look, how you sound, how much you don’t know, how much smarter they are, etc, take your focus off yourself and put it on them. What are their goals and priorities? What do they want? How will they benefit personally from what you have to offer? Etc.
  3. Don’t assume they see the world the way you do. And don’t try to get them to see the world the way you do! That too will diminish trust. And, oddly, it is unhelpful if you are successful. If people see the world the same way, and value important variables the same, how do you trade effectively? It’s like trading a dollar for a dollar. No way to get a good deal or add value.


Remember that you are negotiating with people, not organisations. Build skill, prepare well and be more confident. But also, be yourself. You’re fine the way you are. The people on the other side will trust you more. Everything is easier after that.

Hunter Shannonhouse
More by Hunter Shannonhouse:
Deal breakers and the TPP
What Are You Afraid Of?
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