Did you know just about anything is negotiable? From your salary to the new boots you've had your eye on at the mall, no dollar amount is set in stone—so says Stuart Diamond, author of "Getting More: How to Negotiate to Achieve Your Goals in the Real World" (Crown, $26).
But there's a right way and a wrong way to go about getting the deal you think you deserve. I chatted with Diamond about how to be a better negotiator.
Diamond: Women are hardwired to be better negotiators because they are better listeners. You have to really listen to be good at this. You have to think about the other person's needs and bring a solution to the table. You won't know what they need if you don't ask and you don't listen.
You also have to make a connection with the person you are negotiating with and this means making it personal. Women do this naturally. They start talking and bonding much faster than men. On the other hand, women tend to be more emotional at times, and you have to leave the emotional piece out of negotiations. You can connect without getting too emotional.
Weigel: Can people afford to play hardball in this day and age?
Diamond: Not at all. You can do it for a short period of time, but it will lose its effect. If you come to a negotiation expecting a war, you will get one. And you will get less. Studies show that adversarial negotiators make about half as many deals as do more cooperative, problem-solving negotiators. Nobody responds well to threats.
Weigel: What about if things get heated? Should you walk out?
Diamond: Never walk out of a room unless someone's shooting at you!
Weigel: Is it OK to bluff?
Diamond: I never bluff in a negotiation. Never. This is manipulative, and they will likely find out. You want to do research on their standards. Know what their weaknesses are and offer a solution.
Weigel: You say certain companies offer discounts automatically, yet people just aren't aware of them. Can you explain?
Diamond: Several companies offer discounts for being frequent customers or for being members of different organizations. One of the first assignments I give my students at the Wharton Business School is to go out and get a deal. Whether it's with your phone company or at a clothing store. Reach out and make contact and see if you can make progress. Some people don't realize that if you pay something early, ask for a discount. My wife always pays our house repair bills on time, and because this is so rare, she gets a discount from the contractor. But never ask for a discount if you're in front of a group. Pull someone aside that you've established a relationship with and ask them privately. And don't ask for too much all at once. You will get more if you ease into these things.
Weigel: Is there a go-to phrase that you always use when negotiating?
Diamond: I will ask, "So for the people you like the most—what do you charge them?" Another one is, "What are some things that you've given to other people that I haven't thought to ask for?" This could work at the office or in the world. This not only breaks the ice, but lets them know that I know how things work. Gadhafi would leave Libya if we made a good proposal!