Ed Hochuli Negotiates with the Big Boys

In a colorful presentation at RIMS 2013 in Los Angeles last week, NFL referee and attorney Ed Hochuli shared his secrets of successful negotiations gleaned from decades on the gridiron and in the courtroom. Accompanied by film clips showing him flubbing on-field instructions and being berated by coaches, Hochuli pointed out that there are two types of negotiators. Understanding the strengths and weaknesses of each is how you win the negotiation.

The aggressive type, he explained, are “always on the push.”

They use intimidation, threats, claims of superiority and cast blame on their opponents in an effort to get their way. Aggressive negotiators will make extreme demands and few concessions. While these types will rarely get taken advantage of, they tend to create a feeling of mistrust and are, more often than not, unsuccessful — 75% receive poor results, Hochuli said. Cases take longer to resolve and end up going to trial at twice the rate of other cases.

Cooperative negotiators, on the other hand, try to find agreement and move toward their opponents.

They generally establish credibility and good faith by presenting themselves as trustworthy and fair. They are willing to make concessions in an effort to reach the best outcome for both parties. This strategy results in more success and easier settlements, as both parties tend to feel like they’re getting something out of the deal. Of course, this strategy runs the risk of exploitation, especially by an aggressive opponent who considers a cooperative opponent to be weak. But Hochuli pointed out that this can still work as long as the cooperative party understands what is happening and doesn’t get rattled.

Hochuli’s final bit of advice for successful negotiation was simple: Make the first offer.

He demonstrated how starting with a low number in a discussion anchors the conversation to that range and can allow you to set the tone for settlement at an appropriate level for your company. It gives the opponent a better idea of what a claim is worth. Or at least what a company is willing to pay.

And when you’re negotiating with, say, the NFL about ending last year’s referee lockout, this is probably good information to have.

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