You’ll often find you negotiate best when you put forth the least effort. The less you talk the more you allow the other person to talk, and they’ll do most of the work for you.
One of the common principles of negotiation is to never negotiate against yourself. In essence, this means that you don’t talk yourself into settling for less. The more you talk and think, the more likely you’ll wind up doing just that. For example, when buying or selling on Craigslist, you’ll often hear the question “what’s your lowest price?” In job negotiations, you might get asks, “what’s your target salary?” Both questions attempt to make you think about finding the lowest acceptable offer, but that’s not what you want in a negotiation—you want something hire, in your favor, or at least at a fair middleground.
To avoid negotiating against yourself, you need to resist questions like these. Fortunately, this is very easy to do. When someone asks you for your lowest acceptable price, you can respond with “I don’t answer that question, but you’re welcome to make me an offer.” When negotiating salary, you can say “I don’t have a target salary in mind, but I’d love to hear what you’re offering.” Alternatively—and I prefer this method—you can ask for more money than you think you’ll get. If a company wants to hire you, they won’t laugh you out of the room just because you ask for too much. They’ll simply counter you with something on the higher side of their range and then you can decide if that amount is worth it.
And don’t forget: it’s not always about money. Whether extra items in a sale or special benefits at a job, don’t hesitate to ask for whatever you want. I once knew a guy who negotiated the right to work naked. Nothing is off the table.
This isn’t the only negotiation tactic that matters, but it’s one that keeps you from screwing yourself over and coming to fair terms. You don’t want to become a great negotiator just to take advantage of the other side, but rather find a compromise that works best for both parties.