Understanding This Counterintuitive Psychology Tip Will Make You A Better Negotiator

Negotiation is about deal making and looking for ways to create and claim value. If you are good at persuasion, it's a skill you can use to put yourself in a stronger negotiating position. Knowing some simple psychology tips about human nature can give you a leg up in your next negotiation.

For example, let’s say you’ve been tasked with re-negotiating a contract with a longtime client. Part of the contract includes them upgrading to the newest version of your company’s product. They’re resistant because the process will involve some fees as well as an investment in staff training time. They’re fine with the way things are and see no reason to change, since technically you’re still supporting the old version.

One approach you might try is explaining to your client each of the new version’s features and what’s great about them. But since your client thinks the old version is fine the way it is, it’s not really the most effective tactic.

A more persuasive method would be to point out that a majority of your other clients have already upgraded, and they are one of the last holdouts. Both arguments are reasonable, but they approach the same issue from different angles. What makes the second version better? It uses the principle of social proof: people follow the lead of people like them. We know this intuitively from social media likes and recommendations — and this is one example of how you can use the same basic approach in negotiation.

People are emotional first and rational second. This is more counterintuitive than you might think. Do you see yourself as less gullible (and by extension, more rational) than others?

So do most people. If you want to persuade someone to agree with you, go for the heart rather than the head. More facts aren’t necessarily better.

Have you ever been on the fence about buying something, and then decided to go for it when a salesperson assured you it’s a great product? (I know I have.) Then you already get that persuasion is about convincing yourself. Your goal is to get what you want — by getting your counterpart to want the same thing as you.

If you’re wondering whether persuasion is, well, a bit creepy, my view is that it depends on your intention. In the client example, you’re trying to persuade them to upgrade in whatever way works. The upgrade makes sense for their company as well as yours. It’s not hurting anyone, and you’re not coercing them. Using an approach informed by psychology isn’t worse than any other technique simply because it’s effective.


Persuasion gets sticky when put toward goals that result in harmful consequences. That includes taking advantage of a situation where you see an angle your counterpart hasn’t noticed that benefits you but harms them. You can negotiate in ways that are respectful both of our own values and those of our counterparts.If your intention is to overcome objections to reach a mutually beneficial agreement, move forward with a clear conscience.

This post originally appeared in Women@Forbes, where Alexandra Dickinson is a contributor. She writes about how to use a negotiation mindset to achieve your goals.

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Alexandra Dickinson

Alexandra Dickinson is the CEO and founder of Ask For It, a boutique consulting company working to close the gender wage gap by effecting change at both the institutional and individual level. We work with companies, schools, organizations and individuals through a combination of trainings, workshops and consulting. Our goal is for women and men to be paid based on their talents and skills, regardless of gender, and for our company to have been an important part of that change.