Negotiation – hidden meanings in conversations



While negotiating, or for that matter, in a any conversation, many a times, things being said are very different from it's meaning. Specifically in a business conversation, one must look for hidden meanings in what other people are saying. Very often, what is left out of a speech or conversation is just as meaningful as what is said. Further, one must also be skillful in not giving away one's own hidden meanings.


The following list highlights expressions and words that indicate hidden meanings in conversations. Its quite interesting!


- Expressions meaning the opposite: Sometimes people say things when they really mean the opposite.

This is very popular during a sales (or buying) conversations:


Some often used terms are: "Its not important but I just want to let you know that...." - Bear in my mind if something isn't important then there isn't a need to say its not important. For example we never say that "its not important but the sky is blue" - We just state it. You can be sure when a 'bumper' like that (It's not important but) is added, the following statement is very very important. In fact that might be the foremost concern of the person making the statement. If this is a sales situation and a buyer is making a statement like this - be 100% certain that this is his or her's number one objection.


Sometimes people say "Don't Worry...." - Whats coming after this statement or whats been said just before - make sure to take it very seriously - and be worried.


Other similar expressions that mean the opposite are "Just want to tell you" - You can be every sure that there is a monumental demand or information coming your way. OR "We can work out the details later" - basically means that the person making this statement is not willing to disclose his cards - LATER means there is a lot more negotiation left - it ain't over!


- Throwaways: are expressions that at a face value indicate a casual reference, but in fact precede a BIG announcement. Commonly used throwaways are "By the way" or "I just remembered" or "As you are aware" or "Incidentally" or "Before I forget"


Whenever you hear these, get prepared for a giant announcement or claim.


- Legitimizers: Expressions used to legitimize a statement that is not completely true.


These words or phrases are legitimizers: "Actually the truth is...." - Think about this statement for a moment. What does a person mean by saying actually the truth is... Does he or she mean that whatever they have been saying is untrue? Most likely, yes. Rather one of the two is definite, that is, either what the person has been telling you till now is a complete lie or what is going to follow now will be one.


Other legitimizers are "Frankly" or "Honestly speaking" or "to tell you the truth"- Whenever you hear these words, you can be sure what will follow is anything but honest. For example you are conducting a job interview and your candidate says "Honestly speaking I haven't thought about salary" - I can guarantee that he has spent the entire night only thinking about the salary. or A buyer of your products or service says "Frankly speaking, you are twice as expensive as the current supplier." As long as the word frankly is there, you can be sure that this is BS.


Keep a watch out for legitimizers. It can be very powerful in a negotiation process. Also watch out for prime time news. You will be amazed at the number of politicians using legitimizers in their interviews!

- Justifiers: Expressions that lay the foundation for failure. Justifier is a state where the other person is giving up on the process. Something has happened during your conversation and the person is now switching off. If you walk out now, at this stage, it's over.


Justifiers are statements like: "I'll try my best" or "I'll see what I can do" - These statements are 'endings'. You need to deal with it right there and then. It might be a good idea to start all over again.


Justifiers are even more dangerous when the conversation changes tracks to 'we'. That is the person till now has been communicating to you as "i will see" or "I will do" and suddenly changes to "we will see what needs to be done" or "we will look into it" - This is a sure sign of transferring the process and ending it.


- Erasers: Words that erase everything that came before them in a conversation.


The two major erasers are the words - 'But' and 'However'. Whenever these words are used - everything that has been said before them is no longer valid. Supposing you were in a sales conversation and the buyer says " I like your product and I agree this will be of immense value to our company, however...." - The moment 'however' is used everything before that is gone. You need to start again.


- Deceptions: Statements immediately preceding an eraser that means the opposite of what is stated. Sometimes erasers are also used as legitimizers, for example, "I am no student of law, but..." - Basically implies the opposite - that is whether or not this person is a lawyer, you can be very sure that he knows his stuff.


- Preparers: Clauses that get you ready for the speakers request. Statements like:


"I don't mean to be personal"

"I don't want to intrude..."

"I need a big favor"

"This is very embarrassing..."


These statements are basically used to get concessions from you. Sometimes a person says that he or she needs a big favor - This has basically aroused your mind to think, what might the person need. What will follow is a request for something small - but because you were preparing for a big request, you are likely to give in.


Same with a statement like "I don't mean to be personal" and you will start think that what on earth is this person going to ask. It will actually be for a small favor that you might now be compelled to provide - but might not have, if asked directly.


- Trial Balloons: Sentences that indicate that the speaker has already made up his or her mind and wants your opinion on it. Statements like:


"I haven't given it a lot of thought" - means he has thought and decided. He is testing you.


"Top of my mind thought is..." - means he does not want to disclose what he has thought and concluded. But he has concluded.


"Thinking aloud.." - Be sure it's been analyzed and thoroughly thought out.


If you come across these statements in a sales conversation - it's a perfect time to close. The buyer is basically stating his or her buying preference.


It can be very intriguing to listen and study conversations. Watch out for hidden meanings and 'typical' statements mentioned above. It can be very insightful in leading a negotiation conversation. You can very much figure out what to work with and what to ignore. It takes a bit of practice but is a whole lot of fun.