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Nothing Personal

Winning at negotiation means learning what to bring to the table--and what to leave at home.

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This story appears in the October 2003 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

For better or for worse, I've spent the past 20 years helping people make better business deals. Some of those deals involved large sums; some didn't. I'd like to use this 50th column to offer personal observations about life at the bargaining table.

First, to paraphrase psychologist Albert Ellis, "No one has to be nice to you." To be thick-skinned yet sensitive to the innards of others is a great gift for any negotiator. Simply being "sensitive" isn't. There's a certain rough-and-tumble to making deals. Make no mistake: Points are awarded for artful deception, omission and obfuscation. If you've got your heart on your sleeve while everyone else is close to the vest, it will not be fun for you. No one goes through life without negotiating. The sooner you get over it, the better.

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