Negotiating in the workplace is too important to be taken lightly or entered into without preparation.  Not only are the issues and how they are settled important to your career, what others think of you is also at stake.  How associates view your ability to persuade and defend your positions becomes an intrinsic part of your reputation. The acknowledgement by others that “he or she is a good negotiator” is almost everywhere accepted as exceptional praise.

Never enter an internal negotiation without taking at least some time to anticipate the other party’s approach and arguments.  If the bargaining stakes are high, find somebody who will help by acting in the role of adversary; that is, as your Devil’s Advocate as they were called in religious tribunals of the Middle Ages.  Lawyers, getting ready for big trials today, employ such advocates, as do presidential candidates preparing for public debate with opposing candidates.  Using a Devil’s Advocate to win agreement is a strategy that has worked for centuries and continues to work today.

Here are three “Devil’s Advocate” approaches that work.  The best by far for defending your position is what I call “the double defense.”  First, generate arguments in favor of your position, then allow a friend or associate to first offset your arguments and then present an opposing position.  If you can handle their rebuttal to your position and cope with their arguments in support of their ideas you are well-prepared to negotiate.

Not as good, but less time consuming, is the single defense where you practice offsetting the anticipated arguments of the other side as anticipated by the Advocate.  Least effective, but far better than nothing, is for your helper to find additional good reasons in defense of your position without regard to the counter-arguments of the other side.

The Devil’s Advocate approach will make you a more effective negotiator.  To do so two problems must be overcome.  You will have to find a friend who has the time and cares to help.  You will also have to commit yourself to do a lot of preparation work.  If the stakes are high it’s worth the extra effort.

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