Two business people who are confident in negotiations shake hands.

Do you want to have confidence in negotiations? How should you change your body language to appear more confident?

Herb Cohen says that the person who has more power in a given negotiation always wins. Power, however, is situational: If someone needs you to accomplish a specific goal, you have power over them in that situation.

Take a look at how confidence goes a long way to convince the other party to step down.

How to Project Confidence in Negotiations

By projecting confidence in negotiations, you can win any negotiation by convincing the other party that they need you to fulfill their desires more than you need them to fulfill yours.

(Shortform note: If power comes from needing the other negotiator less than they need you, needing less is a viable way of increasing your power. For example, if you’re negotiating for a promotion at work, you’ll do better if you feel like you don’t absolutely need the income and benefits of your current job to be happy. You could even confidently threaten to quit. One way you might train yourself to need less is to practice poverty: Set aside several days to live beneath your means, to show yourself that you can still be happy with much less than you need.)

The key to conveying your power in negotiation is projecting confidence, says Cohen. To estimate how much power you have in a given situation, people largely rely on their instinctual impressions of how you look and behave. The more confident you are, the more power other people will believe you have, and the more they’ll believe they need to concede for you to give them what they want.

(Shortform note: In The Charisma Myth, Olivia Fox Cabane argues that it’s difficult to project confidence because of the brain’s negativity bias—humans are wired to see the world as more dangerous than it really is. Thus, just a little bit of confidence may be enough to give you an advantage over the average negotiator.)

To cultivate feelings of confidence, you must truly believe that you don’t need the other negotiator as much as they need you, according to Cohen. To do this, you have to recognize that you have a surplus of other options available—alternative ways of fulfilling your desires to use if the other negotiator offers you a bad deal. Boost your confidence before entering any negotiation by surveying the options at your disposal, and avoid negotiation at all costs if you don’t have a wide array of other options.

For instance, if you’re about to negotiate the cost of renovations to your house with a local contractor, you should refresh your memory of the other options at your disposal: You could ask your friends for referrals to other contractors, delay the renovations for several months, or even do some of the necessary labor yourself. Knowing that the contractor needs your business more than you need their labor, you can project the confidence necessary to get a better deal.

(Shortform note: Boosting your confidence isn’t the only advantage of surveying your other options. In Getting to Yes, Roger Fisher and William Ury introduce the concept of BATNA—your Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement. This is the single best alternative option you have at your disposal. Once you know your BATNA, it can serve as a valuable rule of thumb during the potential chaos of negotiation: No matter what happens, you know not to accept a deal that’s worse than your BATNA, and you know that any deal better than your BATNA is worth considering. Since the publication of Getting to Yes, the BATNA has become a ubiquitous concept in the field of negotiation.)

How to Show Confidence in Negotiations You Want to Win

Katie Doll

Somehow, Katie was able to pull off her childhood dream of creating a career around books after graduating with a degree in English and a concentration in Creative Writing. Her preferred genre of books has changed drastically over the years, from fantasy/dystopian young-adult to moving novels and non-fiction books on the human experience. Katie especially enjoys reading and writing about all things television, good and bad.

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