Becoming a Black Belt Negotiator
By Michael Soon Lee
would you like an extra $5,000 to $10,000 or more a year? This money
can be earned simply by becoming a better negotiator, yet most
people in the United States rarely take advantage of the power of
bargaining, except on rare occasions when making large purchases
like cars and houses. In other countries, like Asia, people there
negotiate everything everyday and save thousands.
Negotiating is like a martial arts contest where power, leverage and
timing can mean the difference between winning and losing. In
martial arts the black belt symbolizes mastery of the craft and
there are seven major belts that you must master before being
awarded the highest honor.
Beginners in martial arts start out as white belts. This symbolizes
purity and lack of knowledge like a seed waiting to germinate.
Likewise, in negotiating there are indicators that you are a novice
such as not being aware that everything is negotiable under the
right circumstances. Not only cars and houses can be subject to
haggling in the United States even such items as death and taxes can
be negotiable as well. For instance, if you can negotiate better
healthcare you are likely to live longer and if you can reduce your
taxes you instantly increase your standard of living. The author
regularly receives a “good patient” discount from his dentist
because he always pays his bills promptly and, when representing
clients before the IRS, has gotten the agency to forgive tens of
thousands of dollars in back taxes.
second rank is usually the yellow belt and represents the seed
reaching for the sun and getting ready to grow. In martial arts you
prepare for a contest by spying on your opponent to find any
weaknesses. In negotiating you do the same thing by doing your
homework about the party you are bargaining with. For example, if
you’re buying a diamond ring what are the attributes that make one
more valuable than the other and what’s the lowest price you can
find the one you want on the Internet?
third belt is green, which symbolizes the seed beginning to sprout.
In martial arts you learn how to warm up by stretching your muscles
so you don’t injure yourself. In negotiating you warm up by building
rapport with the other party through small talk. Many amateur
bargainers miss this step, which is crucial because people like to
do business with people they like.
fourth belt is blue symbolizing the plant reaching for the sky. In
martial arts you practice your punching and blocking techniques. At
this stage in the bargaining process you learn to respond to offers
in a way that doesn’t give away your intentions. For example, if a
seller offers you a five percent discount you should reply, “You’ll
have to do better than that.” This implies that their offer isn’t
good enough with you putting anything on the table yourself.
fifth belt is usually brown calling to mind the plant becoming
firmly rooted into the earth. In martial arts this is the stage when
you learn to use time effectively in a tournament. Negotiators at
this level know that it’s crucial to set deadlines for the other
party otherwise there is no pressure to come to agreement. Savvy
bargainers know that if you give people all day to make up their
minds they will take all do. They are also aware that the one with
the least time pressure usually wins.
sixth belt is red symbolizing the setting sun and the fact that the
plant has matured. This is the stage where martial artists learn to
always be on guard because there can be unfair fighters who will
kick you when your back is turned or even hit you below the belt.
Similarly there are dirty fighters in negotiating who try to trigger
your emotions by insulting you or those who will try to renegotiate
a contract after signing it. Experienced negotiators do not allow
themselves to get emotionally involved and protect themselves
against renegotiations by always saving something for the end for
final belt is black meaning that the highest level of skill has been
achieved. However, just like in martial arts, the learning never
stops. In fact, there are actually ten degrees of black belts each
one harder than the last. In negotiating you can never stop learning
if you want to be a master. There are many ways to improve your
bargaining skill such as going to garage sales and flea markets and
to constantly look for opportunities to bargain.
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about Michael Soon Lee.
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