When Negotiating Be Sure To Wet Down Before Diving In

Negotiating is the ultimate challenge for any leader and being good at it is essential for success. A lesson can be learned from successful competitive swimmers. They always “wet down” by splashing water from the pool onto themselves before a race in order to acclimate themselves to the specific venue.

This avoids the shock syndrome when they dive in. They are already expert at their racing strokes, breathing, pacing and flip turns. Even so they always “wet down” first, if they want every competitive advantage. The purpose of this article is not only to remind you to always “wet down” before a negotiation, but also the basics to be mindful of during the process no matter how expert and experienced you are. Warm up and get mentally “wet down” by keeping the following splashes in mind:

The Dolphin Approach
You don’t have to be a shark to succeed. The dolphin approach is better. The difference is one of style. While sharks try to intimidate people, causing fear and mistrust, dolphins genuinely like people. They are confident, energetic and assertive, but they don’t try to manipulate their opponents with negotiating ploys and gambits. They set out to accomplish straight forward goals and often outmaneuver the sharks because they are so aware of their menacing ways.

The Biggest Fallacy
It’s a fallacy that the more powerful opponent has all the advantages in a negotiation. You can use your opponent’s strength to your own advantage. You gain leverage by involving the other party in the negotiating process, by making them feel they are helping to create the solution.

The Importance of Body Language
Successful negotiating is not all talk. More than half of how you are perceived is non-verbal. How you walk, carry yourself, your voice inflections, manners and demeanor all give signals to your opponent. Within the first few minutes, everyone has sized-up everyone else. Those vital first impressions set the tone for the rest of the negotiations, whether they last two hours or two days.

Start by Reducing the Tension

There is always tension at a negotiation. I’ve found that small talk is one of the best ways to start the wetting down process. I recall a real estate negotiation in which the Seller sent a young lawyer. I commented on his youth and that the Seller must have great confidence in him and asked him to tell me about himself and his background. He became very relaxed and friendly as a result. People love to talk about themselves. It’s less threatening and a topic upon which they are expert. Usually you find a common interest, anything from stamp collecting to tennis that you can use to dwell on momentarily to establish a mutual comfort zone.

On occasion I’ve come to the negotiating table and the other party immediately took the “King of the Hill” attitude by saying something as, “Let’s start by getting right down to business. To save time here’s a list of non-negotiable items.” When that occurs you can be reasonably certain you have the upper hand. Why? Because those type people fear to negotiate and negotiate out of fear, no matter the bravado they seem to radiate. They don’t want to go through the process to have to see another view point that they may be persuaded to cave-in on and know they are vulnerable.

On the other hand hang onto your wallet when you hear, “Well, I’m just a country boy, not real experienced in all of this like you. So, you might have to take me by the hand through this so I can understand it a bit better.”

In whatever scenario you find yourself be sure you are prepared and especially that you are acclimated by “wetting down” just before the major event begins.

John Nicholas speaks from the trenches as an author, trainer, former U.S. Navy officer, corporate executive and international business consultant. He has represented U.S. companies in overseas negotiations and believes that negotiating is just one facet of the overall element of leadership. Want more articles such as this, then subscribe to his free leadership article site and receive a bonus special report – instantly – “7 Rules of Leadership You Can Learn From The U.S. Military that Can be Applied to Any Organization for Personal Success” (a $29 value) available at =>

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