#AskIvanka: Negotiation

Ivanka answers your questions about (let’s be honest) her very favorite topic.

Ivanka took to Facebook to answer your pressing questions on negotiations in a live video Q&A. It’s a subject Ivanka has spent much of her professional life practicing and perfecting—she's widely recognized by others in the industry as a formidable opponent. Watch the full video or get the highlights below, and leave a comment letting us know what topic you want us to address in our next installment of #AskIvanka. #AskIvanka: Negotiation

In what ways do you think the internet helps or hinders negotiations?

It’s a great resource for preparing yourself and learning about the person you’re sitting across from. That said, I don’t like to negotiate digitally. It benefits the weaker party by giving them room to really think about their responses. One of the most revealing things in a negotiation is asking a question and seeing how the other person reacts in real time. You can learn a lot from their body language: Did you make them uncomfortable? Did you unearth a weakness in their argument? You lose that when you negotiate digitally or even over the phone. It also opens the door to misinterpretation. Somebody can send a one-line email that’s a very nice, normal response, and the lack of an exclamation point can make you feel paranoid that it’s an authoritative statement. Any consequential negotiation should be done in person.

How do you keep your personal feelings out of a negotiation?

Sometimes it’s best to use an intermediary (for example, in real estate, people often have a broker do the negotiating). It allows you to come in later and be a little bit softer and make the deal—or be more aggressive and close. Be introspective and ask yourself if you’re the best person to negotiate a particular transaction, without attaching ego to it. I’ve had deals in which I just haven’t had good chemistry with the person across the table from me, so I’ll say to one of my brothers, “You’ll be more effective than I will.” It takes confidence to do that.

What is your advice for when the other negotiator is more knowledgeable about a subject?

Let them talk first. You never want to assume that you know the full value of the item you’re negotiating. I’ve been in negotiations in which I thought the value was x, and it’s turned out to be much greater; the other person will reveal that if you let them speak first. Ask questions. In general, the more listening you do during a negotiation, the better, especially when you’re less knowledgeable about the subject. Do your research. If you’re bidding on something highly transactional, you want to get multiple quotes. In construction, I’ll bid a project out with 3-5 similar contractors, in order to compare their numbers. If they’re all similar, great. If there’s an outlier, find out why. To become confident in a negotiation where you’re less knowledgeable about the topic, learn as much as you can.

When is the best time to walk away from a deal?

You should always be prepared to walk away from a deal that you don’t want. Sometimes it’s really hard, because you get emotionally invested in the end result. Nobody likes to work really hard on a deal only to see it die during negotiations. Sometimes, you learn that the person you’re negotiating with has personality traits that you don’t like; they’re not going to be a good partner in the long run. It’s tough to walk away when you still like the deal, but you realize the partnership is set up to be flawed. Be willing to walk away and constantly make assessments and ask yourself if the deal still makes sense. It takes discipline. At times, it’s harder to walk away from a deal than to close it.

How do you negotiate with colleagues without damaging relationships?

Be sensitive. The biggest mistake people make when they think about negotiations is that they assume they’re always purely transactional, but very few actually are. If I went and bought a used car, that’s purely transactional—I’m probably never going to see the person who sold me that car again, so I can go in there as aggressively as I want and get the best price possible. However, most negotiations are for contracts that lead to relationships. Often, if you try to get every last nickel off the table, you end up damaging the relationship and costing yourself in the long run. Sometimes the best thing you can do is forgo a total victory in a less relevant negotiation, because it creates goodwill. The other person will be more inclined to collaborate and cooperate with you in the long run. Err on the side of sensitivity when dealing with colleagues. Be forthright about your perspective and make an effort to understand your colleague’s perspective, then find an agreeable end result together.