The Single Most Important Thing to Know About Negotiating

Picture in your mind a master negotiator. If you're like most of us, you're probably envisioning some captain of industry type -- Donald Trump, maybe, or Jack Donaghy from "30 Rock." In other words, you're picturing a brash, confident, take-no-prisoners sort of person. Here's why that's all wrong.

Aaron Shepherd of Three Thrifty Guys recently wrote a column for Lifehacker called Five Tips for Negotiating Better With Just About Everyone.

The back story, about his attempt to get a 30 percent raise at work, is just as educational as the column, and although he ultimately didn't get exactly what he wanted, bargaining with his master-negotiator boss taught him a lot about what you need to be a better negotiator.

All five of his points can better your chances at a raise (or a lower cable bill, or shotgun the next time you're in a car with more than two people in it) but the first point is the one most people are likely to overlook:

You need to listen.

"Listening is a fairly underrated skill in today's world," Shepherd says. "It's so easy to assume what others are saying OR (as is my habit from time to time) finish what others are saying for them. Listening is definitely one of those things that comes easier to others."

It's a skill worth developing, though, Shepherd says, quoting negotiation expert Ed Brodow, because listening accomplishes two very important things: it shows your boss that you respect him, and it builds trust between you.

So if you're trying to sell the brass on a raise, the first thing to do is to open your ears.

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(Photo Credit: gp3301/Flickr)

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