Information is Power
Before you go into a negotiation – and everything is a negotiation – think about the information you have, the information you need, and the surprises you might encounter along the way.
The information you have
You have some information that you assume everyone else knows. Challenge that assumption, because sometimes, what you think is obvious really isn’t. Ask yourself if you are 100% sure everyone knows what you do, and that everyone is interpreting the information the same way you are. You might decide that some of your “obvious” information is worth discussing.
You have some information that you want to share. Think of this information like a little pile of monopoly money, because it is valuable. Sharing information can be an indication of goodwill at the start of a negotiation, and it can be currency that you “spend” as you make your way through the negotiation. Think about how to time your sharing of information so that it helps the conversation move forward at the right pace.
You might have some information that you don’t want to share with others. That’s ok! Nothing says you have to share everything. But give this information thought as well, so you are clear about your boundaries, your reasons for them, and what might make you change your mind. Explore what effect your withheld information could have on the conversation, and think about whether there are circumstances when you might decide to share it after all.
The information you don’t have, but you think you might need
Are there are things you don’t know, but could find out by doing some research, consulting with an expert, or calling a friend? This could be good preparation for your negotiation, so consider spending the time to gather that information. If you don’t have the time or energy to do that before the negotiation, you can still be proactive by coming into the conversation with a list of needed information and encouraging others to do the same. You may find common ground early by gathering information together.
Is there information you don’t have that you think another party to the negotiation has? If so, think about the best way to persuade them to share it, and consider what information you would be willing to disclose in exchange.
There’s not much you can do about surprises except to expect them, because there will always be a surprise. Prepare yourself for it by getting comfortable with the fact that you don’t know everything. Keep an open mind about new information, and consider the flexibility to absorb surprises an important negotiation skill and an important life skill to practice.