I took the Karass negotiating program….twice. Once as part of my management development process, and after I told my boss how good it was, he sponsored it for the whole company and I got to take it again on company premises.

Among the many things that stood out in my mind from the program was Dr. Karass’ warning that as tough as a negotiation may get, it should never cross the barrier where the other person no longer wants to sell it to you…out of spite!

Over the years I’ve come to value good negotiators who keep it from getting personal, are able to maintain your dignity and theirs, and look for a way of achieving mutual benefit. And many times, it pays to let the other guy win just a little more than you had intended. Two cases in point:

Some years go, we bought a 22ft sailboat from an elderly English engineer. The boat was in terrific shape and worth every penny he was asking. After negotiating for a while, he offered a small discount on his asking price and I accepted. I knew that I was getting a good deal but I wasn’t “stealing it”. After we had shaken hands he said: “I really appreciate the fact that you negotiated like a gentleman. Although I had originally intended to sell them separately to other members at my boating club, I’ve decided to show my appreciation for the way you dealt with me by giving you the motor trolley and a rowboat for free”. These “extras” were easily worth another $500 of value to me.

Yesterday, I put my Fuji X100 up for sale on eBay. I set a starting price of $750 with a “Buy Now” price of $999. Since I was including a little over $400 of accessories, the Buy Now price was a terrific deal.

Several guys emailed me to offer $700 or $750 if I would covertly cancel the auction and sell them directly. I declined. With 12 watchers and 75 views, I was pretty confident that it would sell. But within a few hours a young guy from Halifax took the Buy Now deal and immediately paid me via PayPal. I emailed him to confirm his address and he was very effusive in his happiness at getting the camera. I liked his open attitude, so I threw in two more batteries worth an extra $50 or so (factory originals, not the cheap copies from China).

It doesn’t always pay to be hard-nosed when dealing with people. It reminds me of an interview I once saw with a world-famous lion and tiger tamer. He had been mauled many times. The interviewer asked him why an animal would turn on its trainer. He replied: “With big cats, you have to be very sensitive to the point at which play is about to turn into competition”.