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The Ultimate Cheat Sheet to Become a Great Negotiator (Part 1)

A bad negotiation leads to these things automatically: anger, resentment, crying, slavery, and poverty.

So it’s very important to constantly study yourself, study the negotiations you’ve done, and try to improve so you don’t experience the above, which can easily be avoided.

Every day for the past 20 years I’ve learned something new about negotiation. You learn more from a bad negotiation than a good one.

Communication is the thread that weaves humans into humanity.

Make sure the result brings you life and love. Tomorrow is one hundred percent based on the negotiations you do today.

When I do the below, when I live life as gently and positively as possible, then my negotiations work out, and then my tomorrows and the tomorrows of the people around me are pleasant.

I’ve learned about negotiation while selling a company, while buying a company, while closing a sale, while buying services, while getting married, while getting divorced, while figuring out what to do with my life, while messing up my life (in a BIG way), and all the variety of things in life that happen in between.

I haven’t read any books on negotiation and there may be better suggestions than these. But this is what works for me and I think what will work for others but try for yourself.

So if you have to do a negotiation TODAY, do these things and tell me if they work. And offer more suggestions please.

Say “No”.

I told this to someone who was about to get fired the other day. Don’t act like it’s a done deal. Getting fired is a legal action. It’s always a negotiation with many more moving parts than people realize.

Say “No” and that you need to “think about it”. They’ll say something like, “This is not a negotiation”. You can say, “That’s ok, I need to think about this.”

Give it 24 hours. Think about everything that’s happened to you on the job. Think about what you need to get a new job or career. Do the techniques listed below.

In general, with everything you negotiate give yourself permission to think about it. Else, it’s manipulation and not negotiation.


Don’t “meet in the middle”. Here is a dumb negotiation that never really happens:

You offer $40, I offer $20, and we meet in the middle at $30.

I love cartoons but I wouldn’t try to learn how to negotiate from “Family Guy”.

The middle stuff never happens. Many people think it does so they always start off negotiations with being inauthentic.

Always be honest. Say what you want and why. Negotiation equals Authenticity. Without authenticity you lose the tires on your car.

Then you end up going nowhere.


There’s the trick, “I have to talk to X”. Where you have some other X who needs to confirm.

But this is just a trick. It works when you have it and when you don’t have it. It’s useless.

So I will give a better trick: get the other side of your negotiation to be X. In other words, get them to negotiate against themselves.

The word “against” is wrong. The only way the negotiation is going to work is if they are happy also. So “against” also means “for”.

They clearly want something from you. That’s why you guys are at the table in the first place. If they don’t want something from you, then you’ve lost before you’ve started.

So here’s what you say: “I’m new at this. You guys are the grandmasters of negotiation. If a grandmaster plays a novice then he will always win. So help me out, if you were me, what would you do?”

And then NO MATTER WHAT THEY SAY, you say, “but seriously, if you were ME, what would you do. Again, I’m just a novice. I have no clue what I’m doing. Help me out here.” And they will help you out. Because they want the deal to close and you really do need their help, else the deal will never close.

Is this being inauthentic?

No. You want as much information on the table as possible. If they help you, then you have more information, and can be even more authentic. If anything, you might end up helping them more than they help you.


Have more items than they have. Let’s say you are negotiating a book advance. They offer a $10,000 advance and they can’t budge higher.

That’s fine. Now make your list of other things: how much social media marketing will they do, what bookstores will they get you into, who has control over book design, what percentage of foreign rights, of digital rights, you can get. Do royalties go up after a certain number of copies are sold, will they pay for better book placement in key stores, and will they hire a publicist? And so on.

Before every negotiation, make a list. Make the list as long as possible. If your list is bigger than theirs then you can give up “the nickels for the dimes”.

This is not just about negotiation. This is to make sure that later you are not disappointed because there is something you forgot. Always prepare. Then you can have faith that because you prepared well, the outcome will also go well.


Let’s say someone is buying your company. It may seem like all they are doing is buying the assets of your company. But they are also buying the “negative imprint” of your company. In other words, they are buying: “nobody else can buy your company”.

They can say, “Well, we don’t care about that.” Then fine. See if it’s true. Offer your services to other companies.

If you can’t walk away from a negotiation, then you aren’t negotiating. You’re just working out the terms of your slavery.


If a negotiation is not easy, then it means you need to work harder to develop more value to offer.

Negotiation should always be easy, else you need to take a step back and be patient for when it becomes easy.

NEVER waste time chasing down a difficult negotiation. Else you will lose, you will be unhappy, the other side will be unhappy (even though they got you cheap, they will secretly think you are worthless) and you will have wasted time and squandered money.

IMPORTANT: Every day, your body requires energy to survive, to think, to do well, to be happy. You don’t get infinite energy.

One way to replenish energy is to sleep. The other way is to eat well and to exercise.

But another way to replenish energy is to live a gentle life. As gently as possible. So your energy grows and is used where it is needed.

Which means all negotiations need to be smooth else they result in anxiety and fear and guessing and out guessing and much future depletion of energy.

And then you die faster than the one who lived gently.

Try this. Next time you are in a negotiation, don’t forget to relax your face.

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When you rent, try to give yourself as many options as possible to leave.

When you get married, make it clear in advance what you want (maybe one side wants kids and the other doesn’t) and how this can be resolved.

This is not the same as a prenuptial (which is purely financial) but an understanding of what both sides want (communication is always good in a marriage) and to understand of how it can be resolved if wants and desires change (i.e. options to leave or change the nature of the relationship).

Sometimes there are not that many options you can negotiate. That’s ok. Just remember the line, “options equal freedom”.

In some cases, you may want to sell your freedom if the price is right.

For me, there is no price that is worth sacrificing freedom. But not everyone is the same and that’s fine.

If someone says, “you can be CEO of Google but you have to work 14 hours a day for 5 years or we take all the money back” you may think that is an ok sacrifice for your freedom. Or not.

But until you sign, you have the option.

This seems like a contradiction. Most people think, “More Money equals more Freedom.”

There’s a balance. You don’t want to be a slave to your bills and debts.

But you don’t want to be a slave to massive downside either.

Everything in life is about having as many options as possible so you can maximize your freedom. “Options” are not the same as money.

For every decision you make, don’t let cognitive biases limit your options. As an example, if you spend $400,000 and 12 years of your life learning how to become a brain surgeon, you now have this HUGE cognitive bias that you MUST be a brain surgeon.

This is not true. Make sure you can always list your options. Don’t succumb to cognitive biases that are just trying to trap you.

[Ed Note: James is the host of the #1 business podcast, The James Altucher Show. In the incredible first episode, James interviews a man that essentially reinvented the book-publishing industry. After writing a book and receiving hundreds of rejection notices, this man changed the rules and has since sold nearly 3 million copies of his book and he’s also made a lot of money. You don’t want to miss what he had to say. The easiest way to listen is to subscribe to his podcast through iTunes. Click here to listen.]

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James Altucher

James is the host of the #1 business podcast, The James Altucher Show. In the incredible first episode, James interviews a man that essentially reinvented the book-publishing industry. After writing a book and receiving hundreds of rejection notices, this man changed the rules and has since sold nearly 3 million copies of his book and he’s also made a lot of money. You don’t want to miss what he had to say. The easiest way to listen is to subscribe to his podcast through iTunes. Click here to listen.