Think about parent-children interactions you’ve met with. How often does the child get what he or she wanted in the end? We like to think, as adults, that we are much smarter and more complex than children, but children are the ultimate negotiators, using surprisingly elegant tactics to get what they want. As adults, we often disregard the more simplistic negotiating skills children employ, but sometimes simple is the best. The following are a few of the simplest child negotiation techniques and what we can learn from them in corporate negotiations training:
Aim high. Children have a seemingly intuitive knowledge that starting out with a large request will result in more a more beneficial outcome. Whether this begins as simple greed or a childlike hopefulness, we can’t be sure. Yet somehow children know when they ask for 3 more scoops of ice cream, they will end up getting at least one more. Perhaps this explains why they always look so overjoyed when they get what they originally ask for: they weren’t expecting it. In business, always ask for more than you expect.
Ask at the right time. One of the most devious tricks children employ is asking for something when their parents are distracted. They learn at an early age – if mom or dad is distracted by watching TV or talking on the phone, they will be more likely to get a positive answer. Negotiators can use this trick, as well: when negotiating, slip in a seemingly unrelated request that will provide your company with a big reward. Even politicians use this tactic, slipping unwanted bills and stipulations into otherwise popular legislation.
Offer something first. Children almost always preface their negotiations with reminders of their good behavior, performances of odd favors and tasks, or gifts and compliments. Most parents have wised up to this trick, prompting the well-used line “what do you want now?” Nevertheless, it is still effective. Everyone knows that you don’t get something for nothing, and doing a favor for or offering assistance to a company before beginning negotiations is one way to get better results.
Be persistent. This is perhaps a child’s most effective negotiation tool, and it’s one we incorporate into our negotiations training module. Kids understand a “no” often means “not right now” and even the strongest parents can eventually be worn down by sheer persistence. If you know what you want, go after it, and don’t stop until you have achieved your goal. This is just as applicable in negotiation settings as it is in the rest of life.