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“Nice” Works in Negotiation


The other day I was at the coffee shop and overheard a lively conversation about property.  These guys were talking (loudly) about buying, selling, and renting property and tax benefits etc…

I couldn’t help but listen in a little bit.  After a minute or so, I packed up and on my way out, asked one of the guys for his card.  He seemed to really know his stuff! He laughed and said that he was “just getting into all of this” and wasn’t an expert but was learning.  I’m learning too and we got into a fun conversation.

After a while he brought up his realtor and said, “He’s such a nice guyYou’d never guess how smart he is or what a great negotiator he is.”

Take that quote apart and you are left with a few assumptions:

  1. Nice people aren’t smart and can’t negotiate
  2. Smart people are mean or socially deficient
  3. Negotiators are mean or socially deficient

Now, I’m sure that’s not what he consciously meant.  He was just reflecting common cultural beliefs that we all have (in different degrees).  After all, everybody knows, “Nice guys finish last”.  Many people believe that you have to be tough and “hard nosed” to be a good negotiator….

The truth is, “Nice” works and it’s a profoundly powerful negotiation tool.

“He who has learned to disagree without being disagreeable has discovered the most valuable secret of a diplomat.”

~ Robert Estabrook

But when you say “nice”, don’t you really mean “likable”?   What’s the real difference between “nice” and “likeable”?

Nice people sometimes get “short end of the stick” in negotiation because they don’t want to upset the other person.   Smart and likeable people wield influence and confidently ask for what they want.  “Nice” might get you an acquaintance but likable will get you friends and long-term business.

In fact, the 10th lesson of Napoleon Hill’s “The Law of Success” is to “Develop A Pleasing Personality”.  That’s really what developing likeability is.  It’s purposefully cultivating your likeable personality traits so that you are a better communicator and negotiator.  So what are the likeable personality traits?

Dr. Robert Cialdini talks about the “liking principle” in his book “Influence” and describes three elements or traits that he says makes a person likable: Being Attractive, Being Similar, and Compliments.

I’ll add at least one more to that and it is the easiest to incorporate into your daily interactions: Genuine Interest In Other People.

“Likeable” is also a building block for developing “charisma” and “charm”.    While those personality traits are kind of hard to pin down, when I ask people what “charisma” is, I usually hear confident, likeable, and happy…  Likeable is always on the list, so let’s look at a few elements that go into likeable, that powerhouse of a negotiation tool…

Being attractive

It’s a fact of life; people like pretty people.  We are attracted to them.  That’s why the “popular” kids in school were usually the best looking.

People can judge a lot about other people by looks alone.  A study done at Duke University showed that research participants could gauge the business success of a CEO from a photograph.

“Beauty is only skin deep, but ugly goes clean to the bone.”  ~ Dorothy Parker

Luckily, personality traits can influence perceived attractiveness – so you have an opportunity to be “better looking” based on your personality.  So when you develop a pleasing personality or likeability, you are actually perceived as better looking to other people.  What an easy way to improve your looks!

Being similar (creating a sense of similarity or familiarity by getting rapport)

It is well known that people like to do business with people they “know, like, and trust”.  It’s human nature to be wary of the different and unfamiliar.  We generally prefer the known and like to deal with insiders.

You can create that feeling of similarity and familiarity by incorporating more rapport skills into your conversations.  Rapport is the essence of charm and is essential for flirting, sales, etiquette, and even diplomacy.

Rapport is easily one of the most important elements of negotiation and communication.  It enables you to generate familiarity fast.  It helps you to gather information in subtle, low-key ways that are both ethical and respectful.

Your goal in establishing rapport is to create an atmosphere and relationship of trust, credibility, and safety that lead to clear communication and understanding.  To do that, you must pay attention to them (more on that below) and have a variety of ways to establish rapport so that you can do it with a variety of people.  Luckily, rapport skills are pretty easy to learn.  The catch is that you usually have to unlearn some negative communication habits too.

I have found that Tapping (EFT, MT, Energy Tapping) is a really great way to replace those old, bad communication habits with new, useful ones that help you get the results you want.  It’s also a useful tool for incorporating new communication habits into your daily routine, fast.

The real magic comes when you begin to develop confidence in your communication abilities.  There is something special about smoothness that comes from practice.  It shows up in your verbal and non-verbal language as ease with other people.

Practice your rapport skills at home.  The more you use them with family, friends, and co-workers and when you don’t really need them, the easier they are to use when you do.


“Flattery is telling the other person precisely what he thinks about himself” ~ Dale Carnegie

We are all suckers! Look, no matter what you say, compliments work well and they work well on you! I know because you are obviously a sophisticated reader – intelligent and clever enough to recognize your own vulnerabilities (and because you are such a fox)! See, that worked (just a little) didn’t it?

Sincere compliments, given with true admiration are unbeatable.  People (including you!) melt when someone sincerely compliments you on something you have worked hard to achieve – especially if it has gone unnoticed or unappreciated for a while.

Insincere compliments work too!  Yes, you love an ego stroking but only because you deserve the praise.  After all, not everyone can be as enlightened, wonderful, and fantastically good-looking as you are.

Genuine Interest In Other People.

Dr. Carl Rogers called it “unconditional positive regard,” just accepting people for who they are without judging them.  And if you think about it, who doesn’t want to be loved and accepted – unconditionally?

This is an extremely powerful negotiation tool!  Still, sometimes that’s a lot to ask!  We are hardwired to be at least a little judgmental but you can change that with practice. Here are two ways of using this amazing communication tool:

Pay attention to the person/people you are talking to.

“Of course,” you say, “that’s obvious!”  But do you do it?  Do you really do it?  Try this for the next week:  treat everyone you meet as though they were THE most important person on the planet.

See what happens and report back please.  I’m writing this during the holidays so you all should have no trouble finding willing subjects to practice this on.

I read an article written about Tony Robbins by a satirist who fully intended, at the outset, to make fun of Tony and make him out to be a “snake oil salesman”.  In the end, he couldn’t do it.  The whole article ended up being about how great it felt just to be around Tony.  The writer said he felt amazingly important appreciated and that nobody had ever made him feel that good about himself.  He said that nobody had ever paid that much attention to him (not even girlfriends!).

Look for something to like, respect, or appreciate about the other person.

Even the Scroogiest person has admirable traits.  When you can identify something (anything!) to like, respect, or appreciate about the other person, you will begin to evoke more positive traits from them.  It’s like when you pull a frayed shoelace through a rivet hole – all you need is a single thread to pull the whole lace through (though it may take some effort).

Again, try this right now!  Focus on the things you like about your friends and family – it will make it easier to find those likeable qualities in other, perhaps more difficult, people.  Looking for likeable traits in others will make you more likeable as well!

Make These Skills Your Own With Negotiation Ninja Coaching!

These skills usually take a long time to master.  Major changes in your beliefs and behavior are usually difficult to make… unless you have the right information and Negotiation Ninja coaching.

Negotiation Ninja coaching can help you learn these skills and make major belief and behavioral changes, fast.  You’ll be able to make them automatic and natural (so you don’t have to think about using them), fast. You’ll build confidence in your abilities, fast. You’ll learn to use leading edge belief and behavior change tools – so you can master your mind.

Happy Holidays!!


P.S. Look for a Negotiation Ninja class on developing “likeability” in the New Year!

Contact Negotiation Ninja today for your free consultation

Nancy T. Hand, JD, NLP Trainer, EFT-ADV



{ 2 comments… add one }
  • Will Hand December 10, 2010, 10:13 pm

    I love the story about Tony Robbins. I wonder how much effort and how long it would take to get to that point in establishing that much interest in other people.

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