Learn to say “No” at least once more, even when you like and are willing to accept the other’s offer. Then say “Yes.” This is suggested not so much because you sometimes get a better offer but because it provides greater satisfaction to the other party than saying “Yes” immediately to what is an acceptable proposal. I will explain why I feel this way with a story told me by a then-prominent movie star.
Dinah Shore told me this as I waited to be introduced as a guest on her television show. Knowing that I was going to talk about negotiation, she said off camera, “I’m the world’s worst negotiator.” Some years ago, when $500,000 was a very large sum of money, a Beverly Hills home was for sale at $500,000. The actress liked the house and offered $425,000. The buyer’s broker immediately said, “We’ll take it.” Years later, despite the fact that the value of the house was already more than $1,000,000, she was still angry about the $425,000 agreement made earlier. Dinah Shore was convinced that her $425,000 offer was a foolish mistake because it had been immediately accepted. That’s why she said, “I’m the world’s worst negotiator.” But was she really the world’s worst negotiator, or was it the broker or seller?
If we wish to see how bad a mistake the broker made, we have only to imagine another scenario. What if the broker had said, upon hearing the offer, “I don’t think my client will accept your offer, but I’ll be glad to submit it.” He could have returned in five minutes and explained that the client, because she was in a divorce action, was willing to take $440,000, still a real bargain. Suppose they then settled at $435,000. Would Dinah Shore have felt that she was a good negotiator or a bad one? Because of the delay in saying “Yes,” she would have been more satisfied paying $435,000 than the $425,000 she actually paid!
It’s ironic, isn’t it? For Dinah Shore, paying $425,000 represented pain and dissatisfaction. Paying $435,000 would have meant the opposite. There is an underlying principle here: the other side will always appreciate the agreement price more if they believe they have worked for it and gotten closer to the bottom line. If not, their self-esteem will be bruised. They will be angry at you and angry at themselves for a long time.
One final note on why you should learn to say “No” a few times even when you are willing to settle. As many of you remember, Dinah Shore was a caring and giving person. If she had not been so nice, her anger about the deal might have caused her to make trouble for the seller in a number of ways.
If she were upset enough, she might have made an excuse to cancel the agreement before escrow or ask that expensive repairs or improvements be made. She might have demanded that the Persian rugs and fireplace accessories be included in the price. People do these things when they get a “Yes” answer too quickly. Like most people, rich or not, they hate to feel they were “taken” or that they foolishly left too much on the table.