How to Negotiate Without Appearing Like You’re Negotiating

Everyone knows that you have to negotiate to buy a car.  It is expected and is pretty obvious from the moment you step on the lot.  But what about the more subtle forms of negotiation?  Do we even recognize when these occur?  Much of our life involves negotiation and it can be to your advantage to learn the tricks of becoming a skilled negotiator. Subtlety is a key component in getting people to do what you want.  Call it manipulation if you will, but when you can negotiate without appearing like you’re negotiating, you immediately gain the upper hand.  Here are a few tips for learning the art of subtle negotiation.


If you want to be a good negotiator you have to start by being a good listener.  Every word that is spoken has a purpose and meaning and if you listen closely you will understand what it is that your counterpart really wants.  When you listen intently, you appear courteous and respectful, but you are also increasing your ability to negotiate the situation.

Find Out What Motivates and Use It

Let’s say you really want to play golf this weekend but your wife has had a long week at work and will likely want help at home with the house and kids.  If you come right out and ask, she will probably refuse so you need to come up with a better strategy.  A few days before the weekend you offer to cook dinner, clean the kitchen, and you even get a head start on weekend chores by cutting the grass.  Without even asking, you have already increased your chances of getting to golf.  Why? Because you know what motivates your wife and you are using that to your advantage.  The same is true in business.  If you can listen between the lines and find out what is really motivating the other party, you will gain a decided advantage in the negotiation.

Lead Them to the Water and Let them Drink

Any negotiator knows that you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make them drink.  Despite your best efforts, you cannot force your counterpart to sign on the dotted line.  They have to do it on their own.  Therefore, in any negotiation, you must learn how to tactfully and subtly influence your counterpart to take the deal.  Remind them that they are welcome to take their time but it could end up costing them the discounted rate.  Or in the case of an attorney, they might remind their clients that every day spent pondering the deal is costing them more money.  Whatever the case, subtle nudges can influence the other party to move forward with the deal.

Make it About Them

We have all been approached at some point by a pesky salesperson that is pushy and overly aggressive.  It’s obvious that they want you to buy their product so they can meet their quota and get their commission.  It’s easy to walk away in this type of situation.  However, what about those salespeople that seem so cool and collected that they almost act like they don’t care whether you buy the product or not?  They make you feel like it’s not hurting them but it’s hurting you if you don’t buy the product.  After all, the product is only going to make your life easier and better.  These are the types of negotiators who know how to close a deal.  They make the negotiation all about you and how great the deal is going to be for you. 

Find a Common Thread

Familiarity breeds comfort and comfort leads to a greater ability to land the deal.  The bottom line is that we feel more comfortable around those with whom we share a common bond.  Get to know your counterpart.  Maybe you grew up in the same town.  Perhaps you cheer for the same sports team.  It might be that you both have children with similar interests. When you establish a common thread, it creates a sense of trust and familiarity with you without the other party even realizing it.  Oftentimes this can help you land the deal.