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Hang Tough

Secrets to staying strong at the bargaining table.

A reputation for toughness is a great asset for the negotiator. It garners respect and reduces your opponents' expectations. Playing tough is part technique, part theater. Here are some ideas.

Don't say much. It makes most folks really uncomfortable. They'll often start chattering away, telling you things best kept to themselves--like where the treasure is buried.

Be stingy. Make them work for their concessions. If you must give, give just a little--and be sure you get something in return.

No means no. Make it stick. But offer a plausible explanation for your position, lest they think you're a jerk.

Stake out the "non-negotiable." Take certain issues off the table from the get-go.

Don't care too much. It's just like dating: Attitude is everything. They won't pester you with endless demands if they feel you're five seconds away from reaching for the detonator.

Be efficient. No backtracking. Once an issue is settled, it's settled.

Play to your advantage. Superior knowledge, connections and so on all give power at the bargaining table. Make sure they know who they're dealing with.

Play hard. You've got to have stamina--not only to fight, but to wrap up all the details. The last person standing at the bargaining table is usually the one with the greatest ability to concentrate.

A speaker and attorney in Los Angeles, Marc Diener is author of Deal Power.

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This article was originally published in the April 2007 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Hang Tough.

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