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Taking the STRESS out of Negotiating Without Losing Your Shirt
by Paul Krecke
February 11, 2024

“We are negotiating all the time.  In fact, any time you are toe to toe, kneecap to kneecap, belly button to belly button with another individual, you’re negotiating.” --Roger Dawson

It’s true that we are negotiating all the time.  It’s also true that for many of us, it is a very stressful process.   Let’s set up a new goal: to still get what we want, but have our negotiations be more fun, less stressful.   How about using this formula: 


Step 1:  SAY YES.  Well that was easy.

Stip 2:  OFFER A TRADE OFF.  Although most people think of price as the only dimension in a negotiation, there can be many!  Before you start, take a few minutes to list possible TRADE OFFS.   A trade-off is a kind of compromise that involves giving up something in return for getting something else. 

Example:  let’s say you found an advertisement for a used bicycle on Facebook Marketplace for $100. The bike looks perfect in photos! If you can get it for your ideal price of $50 or less, it's a done deal. But before you meet her in person, you take a moment to list some trade-offs that might come in handy. 

It’s important to understand what is important to you, besides price. List those.  It’s also important to understand what is important to the other person as well.  Don’t assume that you know what the other person wants. If you don’t know, just ask!  You will be amazed how helpful people can be in telling you what's important to them!

 What things could you ask for as a trade-off for agreeing to full price?  Maybe you could ask her to give you something extra that you see next to the bike in her garage? That thing you love might be of no value to her. Or maybe she would let you make small payments over the next year, one month at a time?  Maybe she would agree to pay for a local bike shop to do a tune-up, replacing well-worn parts before you take possession?

What  things could you offer her as a trade-off so that she comes down on her price?  What do you have to offer besides money?  Could you offer to spend a couple hours cleaning up the bike, at a discount of $40, so she doesn’t have to?  Could you offer to take the bike right away so that she doesn’t have to go through the hassles of meeting with all kinds of strangers in her garage?  Could you just be such a nice person and good listener that she just wants to be sure you are the one to get the bicycle, and price doesn’t matter so much any more to her?   

 Recent examples in negotiating:

  1. I posted an item for sale online for $50.  I got an offer online from someone who said they would give me $25.  I said YES, then offered a trade-off.  YES, I would consider that offer, but I’m getting so much interest right now that it will likely sell for full price.  I’ll tell you what:  if the item is not sold in two weeks, let’s talk again.  OK?  In the end, they needed it right away, so they came back and offered full price. (the trade-off would have been giving the me more time to search for full price buyers)
  2. A boss tells my friend that he wants to add yet another big project to his already impossible to-do list.  He says YES, cheerfully, but adds this trade-off:    Which of the other projects you’ve given me shall we postpone, or delegate to someone else? (the trade-off  was  taking something off his project list)
  3. An office tenant paid rent late, but then asked if the late fee could be waived.  I said YES, it could be waived after 12 months if their rent is on time until then. (the trade-off for saying yes is a late fee paid now, then on-time rents for the next 12 months).
  4.  After agreeing on a price for an item I sold recently, the other person surprised me at the last minute by asking  if I could deliver the item in question.  My answer:  YES, I may be able to do that for you..but if I do that for you what are you prepared to do for me?   Not wanting to offer more, he agreed just to go ahead and pick it up himself.

Can you see how saying YES and offering a TRADE OFF feels better than saying NO?  Can you see how, with a little preparation, you could get what you want and take a lot of the stress out of your negotiations?   

About the author
Paul Krecke
Paul Krecke
Paul Krecke, a volunteer business mentor with SCORE’s Tip of the Mitt chapter, with a business background in clothing retailing and commercial real estate. His column, “Scoring in Business,” appears the first and third Tuesdays of each month in the Petoskey (MI) News-Review.
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