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Can't Fool You (Anymore)

The best tools for mounting your defense against fibbers--and no, we're not talking about a polygraph machine.

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This story appears in the May 2002 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

As J.P. Morgan once said, "A man always has two reasons for the things he does--a good one and the real one." Nowhere is this truer than at the bargaining table. Of course, any attempt to figure out what's really on your opponent's mind is, at best, a speculative endeavor. But the following strategies are the next best thing to having a mind-reader on your negotiating team.

Make conversation. Open-ended queries get the other side talking-questions that begin with who, what, where, when, how or why. Avoid closed-ended questions that your opponent can answer with a terse yes or no. The best time to ask your questions, of course, is before the other side starts negotiating in earnest. For example, early in the interviewing process, one of my prospective employers (foolishly) revealed (at my prompting) how desperate they were to hire someone with my experience. When we got down to talking numbers, I easily bargained for a much higher salary.

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