Think of something huge that you want, like a wall. Do not say anything about it, though! That is a rookie mistake of negotiating: saying the thing you are thinking out loud. You should instead state the sort of things you might like, and then leave it open to others to decide how much of it you ought to have. If they say something wrong, or something you don’t want, don’t correct them. Leave that for everyone else in the room to do, frantically, after you have finished saying you agree.
Protect the downside, and the upside will take care of itself
Protect the downside at all costs. Fight for the downside. Struggle for the downside. Kill for it if you have to.
Do not spend any time working toward or cultivating the upside.
Maximize your options
If you go into the room definitely wanting one thing and not another, a way of maximizing your options is to suggest that maybe you would be open to EITHER thing. Take Tuesday’s example. Before the meeting, and, indeed, at the start of the meeting, Trump suggested he might like security measures or a wall of some kind attached to any DACA bill, but a great negotiating tactic he employed was to suggest that he might be willing to go for just a plain DACA bill by itself. When Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) suggested, “What about a clean DACA bill now, with a commitment that we go into a comprehensive immigration reform procedure?” and Trump said, “Yeah, I would like — I would like to do that,” that was not her being sneaky. That was HIM being sneaky. This is the mark of a master dealmaker.
Know your market
Who are you doing this for? Ask yourself that question before going into any negotiation. Are you doing this because you want a certain policy outcome, or because you would like Wolf Blitzer’s voice to linger over the syllables of your name in awe and wonder when this gets discussed on cable afterward? It is important to know which you want, because you are unlikely to get both.
Use your leverage
Consider a negotiation in which one of the parties is the president of the United States and the other parties are individual members of Congress. You would think that one party would have more leverage than the other, but you would be wrong.
Get the word out
The word is “yes.” Also, “earmarks.”
One of the best ways of fighting back is to just say a vague “yes” to everything that is proposed to you. That way they know you mean business. Deals are like improvisation, and a big part of any improv is saying “yes, and” to whatever is presented to you.
Deliver the goods
The “goods” are positive remarks from Lindsey Graham. Ask yourself, what is more important, having Lindsey Graham say nice things about you in a meeting, or specific legislation? You might think the latter, but ask yourself whether any word with that many syllables can be entirely trustworthy.
If you had any doubt that Trump was delivering the goods, he pointed out on Wednesday that he had gotten several “letters” (CNN clips, the most important form of letter) saying he had been a big success. That’s the true deal: The deal that was inside us all along. Is a deal something different than having someone say a nice thing about you when there is a camera there? I hope not, or most of this advice has been bad!
Contain the costs
Some people might consider the need for you, your press secretary and the people in the room with you to walk back the remarks you have just made a “cost,” but it’s actually a benefit. The best negotiations are the ones that are full of surprises — to you and to everyone around you.
And, most important of all …
Good luck out there!