A successful lawyer has to become an expert in negotiation. We thought it was unfair to keep this knowledge to ourselves, so we’ve compiled a handy list of negotiation techniques into SOAP. A good lawyer uses SOAP every day, which is why people think we’re slippery.
The Four Seasons said it best: ‘silence is golden’. People hate silence and they’ll do anything to fill it, even if that’s not in their best interest. This explains the music of Nickleback. A deliberate silence now and then can help you squeeze extra concessions from your counterparty or gain leverage on a price point.
Beware, though: when using silence in a negotiation, you’ll need a good poker face. Being quiet is only useful if you’re comfortable with being quiet. If you’re as uncomfortable as the person across the table, you won’t get anything from silence other than a large amount of flop sweat.
Before you enter a negotiation, take the time to think about your ideal outcome. What would you like to come out of your discussion? What would the other party like? What can you work on together? All too often, people turn up at the negotiating table with no firm idea of what they actually want. This inevitably leads to conflict. It’s like playing water polo with somebody who can’t swim. Sure, it’s fun to watch, but it seems like a waste of time and those floaties aren’t fooling anybody.
Many lawyers will warn you not to say things like “this is my final offer”. Giving yourself an ultimatum limits your ability to negotiate properly. Remember to be flexible. This doesn’t mean that you have to give up completely, but you should be prepared to make concessions. Sometimes the best way forward to take a few steps backwards. We read that in a fortune cookie once.
Don’t put too much pressure on people. Anybody who’s ever been on a date knows that pressure can kill the mood. Sometimes a gentle touch can be just as effective as an aggressive browbeating. It’s important to remember that the person you’re dealing with is… well, a person. They often want the best outcome just as much as you do. If you’re sensitive to their needs, who knows? You might get lucky. Maybe you’ll move in together! (The dating analogy breaks down at a certain point).
So, there you have it. Get out there and start negotiating. Sometimes the best way forward is to use SOAP. (That one also came from a fortune cookie.)