The Negotiation Ninja, Mark Raffan, left the corporate world to start his training and coaching company that focuses on developing and delivering the most engaging negotiation content in the world. He wants to shift the narrative surrounding negotiation so that people understand that negotiation can be taught and is not just a native trait to some. Although only some actually master the skills of negotiation, anyone can learn what it takes to become a Negotiation Ninja. In this interview, I pick Mark’s brain on the importance of having a winning mindset when entering a negotiation. 

Why is having a winning mindset so important?

“It’s not just important, it’s critical. It is required in order for you to do well in a negotiation. Henry Ford once said, “Whether you believe you can or cannot, you are correct.” You must believe that you can do well in order to actually do well. Even if you are going through a difficult time, it is  important to realize that you can get through it and you can actually develop a negotiation strategy that helps you to do so. Unless you start developing the mindset that you have power and that you have leverage, you will never have the strategy to actually get the things that you need out of the negotiation.”

“Especially for those who have experienced someone using leverage and power in an abusive way,  it can be difficult to think of these things in a positive way. Bad people have and will use leverage and power to cause harm, but you can also use them in a fair, beneficial, and positive way. It’s important to know that power and leverage are only tools. Tools can be used by bad people to cause harm but tools can also be used for their true function by good people. Power and leverage are just a part of the tool kit that helps you to develop a proper negotiation strategy.”

Where does one, who has experienced difficulties and trauma, begin? 

“First people need to recognize that they’ve been conditioned to believe certain things. Yes, the feelings that they are experiencing are real; but, they have been conditioned over the course of their relationship to feel like they have no power, to feel submissive or to feel like the other party is dominant over them.”

“They have been led down the path to believe that they have no power in the relationship. One of the ways that they have been led down this path is through the use of coercive power. Coercive power is the use of threats and bullying. If someone has been subjected to coercive power, their body will naturally respond to other forms of power through fear. The fear that if they do not abide by certain things, bad things will happen. That fear will run rampant in their minds and will control their behavior.”

“Another way someone might be led to believe that they have no power in the relationship is through reward-based power. Although this kind of power sounds better, it can actually be just as bad. Reward-based power is the form of gaining power over someone by rewarding them for behaving in the way that you want them to behave.”

“If these types of power are used by bad people for nefarious means to control others or their life, the person subjected to them is probably going to start believing that they are subordinate without even realizing that they are being purposefully conditioned to believe this.”

“They’ve developed this mindset of powerlessness. It’s important for them to acknowledge and remember that this has been done to you on purpose and that it can end. Recognizing this and that it’s possible to actually take back one’s power is the first step.” 

What I often see is that those particular coercive threats are not even ones that will be followed through on but are solely used for the purpose of manipulation and the incitement of fear. What do you think?

“There’s an amazing quote by Mark Twain and he says something to the effect of, ‘I’ve had a lot of worries in my life. Most of which have never happened.’ When someone has been conditioned to worry and expect the worst possible outcome, they’re also conditioned to believe in an unrealistic likelihood of the expected outcome to happen. Not to say that some threats don’t actually happen; however the likelihood is usually pretty low. What I find to be most beneficial in situations like this is to suggest removing emotions from the decision making processes moving forward. Emotions can cloud judgements. The only way to get out from under the control of someone is to eliminate this factor and make sure clear decisions can be made.  

“If someone is unable to do this or is struggling to do this, it is important to seek counsel. It’s okay to not know things; however, it is not okay to resist help when you need it.”

Once someone has become aware of the above and starts to develop a winning mindset, what are the next steps for them to take?

“The second thing that you need, on an ongoing basis, is documentation. The better prepared and organized you are with relevant documentation, the stronger you will be when going into negotiation. Make sure that you have all of your documents and supporting evidence well-prepared for negotiation. Make sure that everything lines up and checks out to better ensure your strategic position.” 

“The next important thing to address is one’s confidence. Even if someone doesn’t believe that they can be confident throughout the negotiation process or can be better for it, they must fake it. I know that this might sound counterintuitive but it is really important because of the way communication works. There is always a sender and there is always a receiver. Amy Cuddy, a Harvard clinical psychologist, once said something like “The more confident you act, the more confidence you will become.” If you send a message confidently then the recipient will receive that message from someone they now view as being confident pertaining to the information that was sent. The recipient will then respond and react in a way they would to someone who is confident; thus, the sender becomes more confident because of how they were treated.”  

You often say that negotiations come down to human interaction. When we think about Narcissists, we often think that they are far from the normal human being. When entering negotiation with these types of people, what do you think is important to remember? 

“Everyone that you negotiate with is subject to the same potential weaknesses. Unless this person is a clinically diagnosed sociopath, you’re probably still dealing with someone who has stress, sadness, even kindness in them. As hard as it might be to see, the potential for its existence is still there.” 

“Recognizing that you are dealing with a human on the other side will help you during negotiation. This helps you acknowledge that you still have the ability to influence that person despite all of the biases you might have. Understanding that you have bias is also really important.”

“The Fear of Loss Bias is also really important to understand. The emotional weight that the fear of loss carries is nearly twice as great as the emotional weight that the potential for gain carries. Knowing that there is always someone who is statistically susceptible to bias and fear, on the other end, will help you. The awareness of this will help you find points of influence, persuasion so that you can build leverage and power in negotiation. Even if someone feels powerless going into negotiation, it is still possible to build power if they are aware of these basic principles.” 

How to get in touch with Mark, the Negotiation Ninja

Get in touch with Mark through his website.

Find him on LinkedIN

Listen to his podcast


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