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The Actuary The magazine of the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries

How to make people give you what you want

HERE’S A NOVEL IDEA. RATHER THANmerely accepting what life throws atus, we could push back with ideason what we want. This is especiallytrue in our careers. There are tonnesof opportunities to negotiate ourselvesa better position in our workinglives but, in my experience,actuaries are rather more passivethan most.Armed with a few negotiationtechniques we could argue our wayto better pay and conditions, or aplace on that project that couldreally enhance our prospects. Wecould reduce deadline pressuresfrom our superiors, or squeeze a littlemore juice from those we delegatework to. We could talk our accountantcolleagues down from windowledges.I’d love to see more of this sort ofthing, so I’ve outlined below someof my favourite negotiation techniques.There are two types of negotiationand I hope these tips willapply to both. The first involves gettingsomething you want fromsomeone who doesn’t want to giveit – like squeezing an extra percentagepoint out of your salary reviewor that phone number at the end ofa night. The second is not giving upsomething to someone who wantsto take it from you, like the remotecontrol during a riveting episode ofDeal or No Deal.(Those of you successfully cohabitingwith a member of the oppositesex may wish to skip this articleand wait for the advanced course,which is also suitable for hostagenegotiators.)The Brooklyn OpticianThe Brooklyn Optician charges forhis frames, then his lenses, and soon. In this strategy, break what youwant down into small packages andnegotiate one at a time. Focus onthe main item you want, acceptinga reasonable position. Your opponentwill be so relieved at reachingeasy consensus on this, they willhopefully grant any small ancillaryrequests you make, which add up toa better result for you than if you hadasked for it all outright. The key is toavoid mentioning the total cost.Mummy Walker-Buckton was anexpert at this one. I’d be so pleasedat scoring money to buy sweets thatthe phrase ‘while you’re out, couldyou get me a few things?’ would fallon deaf ears until hours later when Irealised she’d had her week’s shoppingdelivered for the price of aToffee Crisp.DeadlinesI’m guessing we’ve all fallen for thisone. Setting arbitrary deadlinesreduce the time available for oppositionand can be used to create tensionand anxiety in your opponent,especially if you emphasise the consequencesof not delivering. Deadlinesare easily challenged butactually rarely are. When told ‘I needthis by this afternoon’, how many ofus respond ‘Why?’?If you still need convincing at howwidely this is employed, just thinkhow often that incredibly urgentwork that simply must be donebefore you go on holiday is still onyour desk when you get back.The Russian FrontThis is a wonderful way of gettingyour opponent to accept the positionyou want when you anticipatesome resistance on their part. Firstoffer them something they willnever accept – the Russian Front.Make it seem inevitable, paint a pictureof pain. Just as they’re beginningto panic you come to therescue, relent, and suggest an ‘alternative’that you wanted them tochoose from the start. They’ll graspat whatever you throw them.If you’ve ever walked out of asalary review happy with a less thanimpressive pay increase because atleast you haven’t fallen victim to thedownsizing you’ve heard so manynasty rumours about, then you’vefallen for the Russian Front.Negotiation do-notsIf I’ve tempted you to have a go,then good luck getting what youwant! Just bear in mind the biggestbarriers to successful negotiation:1 Assuming the other partywon’t change their position.You shouldn’t be put off tryingto argue yourself a better deal.My motto – ‘If you don’t ask,you don’t get’.2 Squeezing too hard for whatyou want. This automaticallypushes the other party into‘fight or flight mode’ andyou’re likely to walk away withnothing.3 Thinking the other party hasall the power in the process.If our bosses could get everythingthey wanted, our officeswould be like sweat-shops.Come to think of it…4 Hurting the relationship. Ifyou’re being aggressive, or youwin at another’s expense, justmake sure you can still sit downfor a drink together.5 Adopting a win/lose mindset.Try to find ways to increase thesize of the pie so that everyonewins. Each of you gives upsomething to gain somethingyou value more.