Negotiate Like a Child [Minus the Tantrums, of Course]

Remember the show, “Are you smarter than a 5th grader” or the book, “All I really need to know I learned in Kindergarten.”? Well, add Negotiation Skill and Prowess to the list of things we can learn from our children. 

There are several key factors that make children such formidable negotiators, and why “growing up” tends to diminish the tools needed to get the best possible negotiation outcomes. 

1)  Ceaseless Curiosity – also known as “Why, why, why?” – the broken record is intended to wear us down – and it does – but it is also very effective because a child genuinely wants to know why! They seek understanding even when we try to distract them or give them and non-answer answer to try and shut them down such as, “Because I said so!”.

2) Just Ask – As we grow up, we start to sift our questions through a sort of social sieve to filter out anything that might sound intrusive, or even to avoid making the other side feel the slightest bit uncomfortable. Children don’t. They see value in gathering information by any means necessary, and they are especially skilled at deciphering who has the information they need. They will ask their questions over and over again, without the fear of failure. Which brings me to #3…

3) Expected Outcomes – Unlike adults, children are much less concerned with the expected outcome. They don’t have the voice in their head saying “Well, she is just going to say no anyway…” or “He will never answer my question, so why even ask it?”. And, if they do have those reservations, they certainly don’t let it get in the way of progress like adults do. 

4) The When – I mentioned the Intuitive nature of children to know who has the information they want and/or with whom they should be negotiating (identifying the decision-makers), but they are also very intuitive when it comes to the when. They read us and – over time – they learn when is the best time to strike for maximum impact and gain.

5) Creativity – having options is critical for effective negotiation – on both sides of the table. If we become too attached to a particular outcome – or dig in our heels and take a stand – we are likely to miss a possible solution or trade that could add value to the transaction. Children are uninhibited enough to unapologetically bring creativity to the table, which opens the door to opportunities, solutions, and collaboration. This lack of inhibition and solution-focus has a positive impact on relationships as well.

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