Negotiation 101: Use Every Tool You Have for Business Change

Negotiation is simple: He who has the best information wins.

I’ve said that for—yikes—decades, and something I read last week made me realize just how important the idea is.

This piece in Inc. is about “Five Things You Should Never Say While Negotiating”. Of course, there are more; negotiation is one of those “simple yet complex” topics that defies being put in so small a box as this. But the point is simple: you need to know when not to tell the person you’re negotiating with what’s on your mind.

The tenet of withholding information isn’t universal. For example, when President Obama negotiated the deal with BP that led me to proclaim Barama Obama to be the best negotiator of all time, he gained the upper hand in his negotiations by revealing exactly what he was planning to do if he didn’t get his way. But The President of the United States is negotiating from a position of strength unrivaled by anyone.

Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, a guy whose position make him pretty darned powerful, too, has tried this. A few times, Facebook has changed its privacy rules in ways that simply took privacy away from its users without giving them options or asking permission. Zuckerberg and Facebook looked bad and had to reverse field. HAD TO. Forget the temporary public outcry that would have died down quickly enough; Zuckerberg mistook Facebook’s bigger-than-most-countries size for the ability to act like Barack Obama and dictate terms. Fine, until that same Obama’s government started rattling swords. Then, it’s not fine. Bad negotiating.

And yes, part of that hearkens back to my contention that sometime experience is the only teacher good enough to prepare you for negotiating difficult circumstances.

Revealing too much about yourself on Facebook? Bad idea. Doing jokes on Twitter about Japan just days after a devastating earthquake during a nuclear meltdown crisis? Ask Gilbert Gottfried about that one. Or, swearing in writing on the Internet, where it simply can’t be hidden? C’mon.

Those are all forms of negotiation. And all examples of how you need to keep certain things to yourself.

Listen: I’m still in the camp of open and transparent communications. But you need to know when to put your ego away and negotiate toward an end.

Because as I’ve pointed out before: Business Change is all about negotiation and how you do it. Even in Baseball.