The difference between man and beast is that man assumes he is better than the beast. In the wild man is only a match if he has the right equipment, is well trained, and knows the jungle. A man realizes just how arrogant he is as a species when a lion charges and all the man is armed with is a camera! A good negotiator plans a strategic approach but prepares for the unexpected.

iStock_000001705396-sm.jpgPreparation entails gathering and assessing as many facts as possible. But time and resources often make full research unrealistically cumbersome or impossible. In every dispute resolution one must assume certain things about the other person in order to make progress. This is very typical of the casual negotiations we must handle throughout our daily lives.

To assume is to presume or presuppose. Assume also means to imagine. This is dangerous territory in a negotiation. You need to limit your imagination as much as possible by refining your communication skills to validate your assumptions.

Rule #1: Assume less, listen more. During a casual question and answer session you can refine what you know and what you think with great accuracy if you listen effectively and watch the body language of the other person. Identify what you are assuming before a meeting and, when the meeting starts, ask questions to validate your assumptions. If you don't know, ask. You may be surprised at how open the other person is to share information.

Assumptions are both necessary and dangerous as we traverse our daily lives. It is unlikely you will ever have all of the information you need to make a decision no matter how diligently you prepare. The best approach is to piece the facts you have with the assumptions you need to patch together the best overview of the situation. Using the mosaic of these facts and assumptions should give you a viable perspective on the situation as you begin the discussions.

Then, once the negotiations begin be observant. If you advance an argument and it does not get the expected reaction then it is safe to assume the assumption was flawed and regroup using the new information to replace this flawed piece of the puzzle.