I took a course in school on Personal Development, in the specialized area of Negotiation skills, and I must say that it was an eye opening course. Well, everything has been an eye opener for me since ever since I got to France. I decided to copy and paste (with minimal editing) a journal piece I write on the course that I was graded on, and I guess it might be of help to someone who would read it It might seem like a long piece to read, but trust me it’s worthwhile.
I remember almost vividly the first class held on negotiation skills, I expected the conventional method of teaching as usual. I mean, I was bored of it. I didn’t expect more or less than that. Then, Thomas Guedj (the professor) came into the class and started off with some catchy vibes, and I was like, “this is going to be interesting”. The first question he asked was (I am going to paraphrase it), “to you, who is best negotiator in the world”. As other students mentioned, Barack Obama, Ghandi (I really don’t know the spelling and exactly what he did, I think I should google that. But I have heard of him), etc., the first person that crossed my mind, like literally crossed my mind was my mom. My mom negotiates everything in this life. At times when I am fortunate to be with her while negotiating, I am always left in awe. I usually wonder to myself, “How does she do it”? I have tried it and “hell!” it often does not go as well as she does it. From price of a commodity or service to getting out of some situations, she’s a pro.
By the way, my dad is a bad negotiator, like really bad! The worst! So most times, it is usually a win for my mom. I remember one incident she spoke about, how she got picked up by a security personnel because she broke a law. She said that including some others, they were all to pay a certain amount as fine 10,000 Naira (Nigerian currency). Knowing her kind of person, I immediately guessed she would negotiate it down to 2000 Naira. Lo and behold, she said she did not pay a dime. My jaw dropped! How did hell did she do that? I wondered. She said, she behaved sober and told them lies. She said some people paid 10,000 Naira, while others paid lower than that. She said she sat there till closing hours (she was picked up 2 hours before), the personnel gave up and let her go (she lost time, but not cash). From that day, I knew she was truly one of a kind.
Anyway, that thought passed, the class continued and then the first exercise, land price negotiation. I immediately channelled my “inner mom”. Before that, I did some calculations and decided I was not going to go beyond a certain price no matter the compulsion (I am actually that stubborn). The exercise started and the person paired with me (the seller) was going on about some things and I told him, I was going to pay 15 euros/meter square (I really cannot remember the currency type and unit) and he said 20. I was like in my mind, “Is it me you want to scam? Do I look like I have a money tree at the back of my house?” I brushed off those funny thoughts and we continued.
We actually did not agree on a price, until Thomas asked us to submit our prices, so I just told him (partner) we should agree on his price (my mistake, but not really. It was 16) to tell Thomas. Immediately I said that everyone stared at me like I scammed the seller, but I ignored. Then the funny part was when others said 80, 100, and above. My inner self died shocked and resurrected from laughing. I am sure if my mom heard the other prices, she would have gone gaga. Another thing is, if you have been living in Nigeria for over 20 years, you automatically become a little bit of a negotiator because of the environment.
I was really quiet in most of the classes because I wanted to observe, learn and absorb (my kind of person). I do not speak except I have a question, answer or reservation. Other students started justifying their actions, and so. It was fun to watch, really. So that passed, the exercised got debriefed and I learnt there is always a ZOPA, (I really did not know that), and other things like that. Thomas said and explained a handful of basic things about negotiation, and I deduced the following:
- There is no win-win scenario. Looking at my mom’s example, she lost time. Negotiation, if compared to economics (which is an absolute sin) is closely related to opportunity cost, and probably sunk cost if looked at closely.
- It is a way to get what you want or a closely related want, but could be done as a cooperation, or you really just want to screw the other person.
- Negotiation is not about intelligence (if I am not wrong), but about smartness. There is term vastly used in Nigeria called “street credibility”. It basically means you do not have to go to school to be a smart person. You can learn from your environment.
- Negotiation is really a big deal. I figured a lot of people’s lives, businesses, etc. can be at stake if a negotiation goes bad.
- Taking the lead in negotiation plays an ample role, if done wisely and with sufficient knowledge as a backup. When knowledge is unavailable or inadequate, seek for it by asking questions.
- Please continue reading my journal.
Fast forward to the third class, the oil price money exercise (it was a bit interesting and controversial). I was paired with a passive person and a nonchalant person (It was not funny at all), but the work had to be done. The exercise began, and I decided I was not going to argue or correct anyone. I was basically going to agree (I had my reasons). The nonchalant person had control of the first five prices while fondling with her phone, I let her so that she could feel good about herself. The passive person agreed to basically everything (nodded like a lizard). After a long while, I could not take it anymore (I took an insult to my face), I took control of the exercise without any explanations and tried to salvage the situation, fortunately it did not turn out so bad. The exercise was debriefed in the next class, and my eyes and brain were open to the following observations:
- Most times you negotiate with a party to both get the best out of a situation, if it is long term. Because getting a person or a party screwed is not funny at all.
- You have to take risks, and even blindly trust a person or a party when you negotiate. To me it is so risky, but life without risk is not fun.
- Trust your intuition (50/50).
- When you get screwed (sunk cost), learn from it and move on.
- You should make the other person or party question his beliefs, thoughts and knowledge while negotiating. That could work in one’s favour.
Then we watched a game show (split or steal), and I got to realise (with a sad face), “LIFE IS NOT FAIR!!!!” Common! But you just have to be smart about how you live in this life. The first episode, was just funny. The man trusted himself and the lady, and the lady thought otherwise. He got screwed, big time! Then the funniest one was the old lady, and the black lady. The old lady was just mean, wicked and heartless for no good reason. The black lady was not (being nice does not work all the time). Then, the last one was good. I loved the guy’s plan and it panned out well for them, as they split the money.
The last class was a bit rushed, I wished we had more contact hours with Thomas. The last case about the soprano singer was cool, I got the highest price (32,000). Funny enough, my partner applied what Thomas told us earlier in the course about taking the lead (price takers) in negotiation, (LMAO!). My partner offered his price, and that was the highest for me to take or leave it. So I calmed down and devised a plan. I swayed him, told him of the singer’s abilities, and “bla, bla, bla”, it did not work. Then it clicked, I used the contract bullshit on him, told him the singer will sign a contract and if she does not do well, he would be refunded, and he accepted. I was surprised the plan worked so well, and I didn’t push it any further. The singer got a high price, presumed she performed more than the expectations, and got the TV gig. Later during the course, I got to learn and figure out the following also:
- At a point in negotiation, if it drags on too long it is better to take what is offered than leave with nothing.
- Creativity plays a big role in negotiation. You have to use what you have creatively to get what you want.
- When the other person’s pride gets hurt, it turns ugly.
- You have to know when to give up (accepting or not accepting), because when it drags for too long, it becomes boring and annoying.
- I found out some of my course mates (not totally) level of reasoning analytically and logically, and also emotional balance level.
Finally, I have come to the end of this journal. I was a bit sad the class came to end, because it was the best class series I have had so far, I was mentally challenged. It was about how creative one could get at the spot. It didn’t deal with applying what we all knew already, but what we could create with our minds at an instant.
I still have somethings to learn, but I won’t stop learning. Also, I do practice what Thomas taught us in class and it helps a lot. I really have to thank him for the eye opening course. I always thought negotiation was synonymous to being on a battlefield, but it is not. It is not about beefs, sentiments, etc., but about the creativity, smartness, amongst others.
[Image Credit: Mitch Jackson]