Take their advice

By — on / Daily, Negotiation Skills

Adapted from “Turn Your Adversary into Your Advocate,” by Katie A. Liljenquist and Adam D. Galinsky, first published in the Negotiation newsletter.

Most of us seek advice on a daily basis, for at least three reasons: to improve the quality of our decisions, to validate our choices, and to diffuse risk. Advice seeking also generates significant social benefits. Consider that we all strive to manage the impressions that others form about us. The process of self-presentation is similar to a negotiation: we use particular tactics to capture esteem, status, and power.

Advice seeking is a versatile negotiation tool, as long as you project the right image and tone. Here are three guidelines:

    1. Express your overall competence first. Many negotiators worry that asking an adversary for advice will make them seem weak. This fear often is unfounded. In one study, researchers Katie A. Liljenquist and Adam A. Galinsky had MBA students engage in a simulated performance review. When those playing the role of junior manager received a surprisingly negative performance review and asked for advice on how to improve, those playing their bosses considered them to be more likable and more competent than those who did not ask for advice.
      To achieve such gains, open by affirming your general competence and then request advice in an isolated domain: “I’ve consistently led the sales team on this product, but this demographic is new to me. I’d love to get your advice on the best way to approach this market segment.”
    2. Make your request specific. Many people enter negotiations with a quid pro quo attitude, so don’t be surprised if your simple request for advice is reciprocated with an enumerated wish list. To avoid triggering aggressive demands, make your request as specific as possible. Furthermore, as opposed to a general cry for help, a specific request will encourage your counterpart to tailor a response that works for you, and it also will lessen the possibility that he’ll view you as an overwhelming or needy “project” to be avoided.
    3. Emphasize the exclusivity of your request. We seek advice from specific individuals for a reason, so don’t forget to highlight why you’ve selected your particular adviser. Mentioning your adviser’s unique qualifications and experience is not only flattering but also demonstrates that you’re a discriminating advice seeker rather than a serial one.

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