How To Negotiate Like Harvey Specter

By Tom Stevenson (@tom_njm)harvey-main-image

1. Don’t point out your coinage. Use it.

When we first start writing essays in our school systems we are taught to identify the crux of the argument, support it with comment, quotes and analysis so that an independent adjudicator can reward you for the startling clarity of your argument. Negotiation is not like that. In negotiation you identify that crux, we call it ‘coinage’, and find the way to use to make the other side yield to your desires. If you point out your coinage to the other side, you have wasted it. Imagine a quarter-back looking up, seeing the play and telling everyone where the ball needs to go. No, the QB sees the play and executes it. Essays are about identification. Negotiations are about identification and execution.

2. You always have more bargaining power than you think

harvey2Tony Robbins talks about the six basic human needs:

Certainty, Uncertainty, Significance, Love, Growth and Giving

The reason putting a gun to someone’s head is exhilarating because it hits the first three human needs. Certainty that this person will do what you want. Uncertainty of what happens after as you are breaking the law. Significance – yes I have a gun to someone’s head. Of course having this amount of power makes me feel significant.

But you still have the other three needs that need to be fulfilled. If you with the gun to your head can convince the gunman that you can fulfil those other three needs, then you stand a chance of getting out of that squeeze. James Bond has always been excellent at this. He’s in an impossible spot with a villain, but somehow appeals to the bad guy’s need for love or legacy. You always have more bargaining power than you think.

For example:

You may not be a big company but you may have “niche” marketing power – the power to command a particular desirable niche.

Your smaller size may make you more nimble or flexible than a bigger company.

Maybe you command a scarce resource even though you are small.

Maybe you are small but have worked out plenty of alternative options to this deal – that gives you a kind of market power too.


3. “I’m against having emotions, not using them”

Although Harvey may want to reconsider his total embargo on feelings, using emotions in negotiations is very important. Different behaviours suit different people. If someone leads with their heart, don’t use reasoned thinking to win them over. You can use their passion to find your coinage. Equally, engaging on an emotional level with a tough guy behaving badly is a very powerful technique. You can intervene by saying, “I’m curious, how would you feel if you walked into a negotiation room and someone started shouting at you?” By forcing that tough guy to answer a question about feelings rather than thoughts, you make their behaviour the issue and the issue of bad behaviour should desist. ‘I feel’ is often more powerful than ‘I think’.

First published on Linked In August 14th, 2014.