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Negotiation Tactics 101: A Simple Language Hack

If you’re a business leader, negotiating terms with a vendor or a client, or negotiating with an employee regarding a pay raise happen relatively regularly. Sales people have to negotiate every single day with potential new clients as part of their job description. Many people think either you’re born with it or you’re not – we’re here to tell you that’s not true.

An article published in The Economist mentioned a simple linguistic trick that could help you leverage a negotiation in your favor. The article, using research published on Psychological Science, referenced high level and intense negotiations between diplomats – something most of us will never have to do in our lifetime.


But, the trick works on all negotiation levels.


The little linguistic hack is to switch highly emotional verbs to dispassionate nouns.


The original study, done by Michal Reifen-Tagar and Orly Idan, presented two highly polarizing sentences in Hebrew to a large number of Jewish-Israeli college students.

One statement was configured in noun form, the other configured in the more emotional verb form. In noun form: “I support the division of Jerusalem.” In verb form, “I support dividing Jerusalem.”


On a principle level, both sentences mean the same thing. The key difference between the noun form and the verb form is that in the verb form, the speaker takes on the role of the actor, doing something that might not be agreeable. In noun form, on the other hand, the speaker is, on some level, separating themselves from what might be a disagreeable statement.


The findings suggested that presented with a degree of separation, it was easier to agree with statements that were highly emotional and divisive.


Now, let’s zoom the lens in a little bit and relate it to your life. We mentioned negotiations, but, really, negotiations aren’t just between salespeople and clients. You negotiate and reach compromises every day when your friends, significant others, and your employees.


While we don’t necessarily suggest speaking like a diplomat to your part-time employee asking for a raise, it’s important to consider the main point of using linguistics to your advantage.


How you present your opinions and your point of view is as important (as sometimes even more important) as the actual content. Present something to someone in a way that they might easily balk at it, and you’re going to lose a lot of negotiations.


Instead, present things in an agreeable manner, with respect for and consideration for the person you’re talking with and it’ll be easy to find a good compromise for both parties.


If you remember that in every scenario, you’re looking for a mutually agreeable solution, then you’re bound to start negotiating better – no matter your natural talent, or lack there

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