Creating the Right Negotiating Atmosphere

It’s your first task. If you don’t create the right atmosphere, you may never start moving toward a deal.

Jack, a consultant, will negotiate with George, a long-term client. George is a tough negotiator. He’s friendly and likes to start with a little warm-up period, but, when it comes to money, he’s really tough. He even brags about how much he saved on his office furniture.

Today’s negotiation concerns a contract for about $150,000. George ordered nearly $2,000,000 worth of computers and related equipment that will be delivered in two months. It can’t be used well without a consultant’s help.
They’ve had several meetings and agreed on most issues. Jack believes that today’s meeting is to settle the price. He submitted a written proposal covering all the issues, including price.

Jack enters George’s office and walks toward him. George smiles, and says, “Thanks for coming. Jack. How are you today?”
“Fine, George. Did you get a chance to read our proposal?”
George frowns slightly, then says, “Yes, it seems to satisfy most of our needs.”

They’ve been together less than one minute, and Jack made a serious mistake.


  1. What was Jack’s mistake?
  2. How did George indicate that it was a mistake?

Textbook Answers

Of course, you may disagree with these answers. Many other people have done so, but make sure you have good reasons for disagreeing.

1. What mistake did Jack make?
He got down to business much too quickly. He knew George always liked to have a brief warm up period, but he immediately asked, “Did you get a chance to read our proposal?”

2. How did George indicate that Jack had made that mistake?
He frowned slightly. You may think that it’s unrealistic to expect somebody to pick up such a subtle signal, but skilled negotiators constantly look for body language and other signals of people’s feelings. If Jack had recognized that signal, he should have slowed down and made small talk. He needed to create the right atmosphere before discussing his proposal.

Of course, many people detest small talk. With them you should create a different type of atmosphere. The critical task is to understand what other people want and then adjust to them.

Understanding and adjusting to other people are central themes in my videos and book: Negotiate to Win: Gaining the Psychological Edge, 2d Edition.

The eBook will be published very soon. FOR A LIMITED TIME, you can get a free copy by clicking HERE .

(I will arrange to send the copy when the book is released.)

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