Right before the winter my friend asked me if I’d be interested in helping her to hunt down a nice looking warm coat. We went to several shops and found one jacket that looked perfect on her but its belt was a bit loose, so my friend said she would like to replace it with the belt from the smaller size coat.

The sales assistant explained that it wouldn’t be possible as after that they would need to think what to do with the belt that my friend left behind. Instead the clerk offered to bring the same size coat from the storehouse and see if its belt is any better. After 30 minutes the girl came back only to say that the jacket they have on display is the only item with the size we need so there is nothing else she could do. Probably because I was too annoyed about the waiting, unexpectedly for myself, I said that this is a one of the worst customer service experiences I’ve had. I told that I am surprised that she let us wait for half an hour and now is ready to lose the sale rather than simply replace the belt.

The sales assistant then answered that she should probably speak with her manager to check if there is anything else to be done. I said it was a wonderful idea that should have popped in her head a little earlier. The girl came back in a minute saying that we are welcome to take any belt we want.

I was very proud of myself that day. Since I never ask for a discount (don’t know how to) and rarely demand a better deal, this little negotiation was a big personal win.

the art of negotiating

Professor Gavin Kennedy in his Everything is Negotiable book says there are 4 styles of negotiating behaviours: Donkeys, Sheep, Foxes and Owls.

Each animal represents the set of characteristics of the choices we make when negotiate.

We usually behave like a Donkey when we don’t know what can we possibly gain negotiating. The Donkey behaviour is often found in someone who has a predictable capacity for stubborn defiance. When what she gets (usually not a lot) is not good enough to consider the negotiation a success and when all decisions the person makes are based on her deep, often irrational “principles”.

“Where ignorance predominates, ‘stupid’ negotiation choices assert themselves.”

You are behaving like a Sheep when you think that whatever you get is acceptable (c’est la vie!) and when you easily welcome the other people choices. There is some pragmatic flexibility in you, but too often you are influenced by others and don’t know how to fight for your own interests. You prefer to agree rather than annoy or disappoint the person you speak with.

“Like the proverbial goose, a ‘boo’ sends you scampering for cover.”

negotiating with stubborn person is the art

Foxes truly know what is going on and deeply believe they deserve what they demand. Some Foxes only succeed because of their sharpness and even ruthless cruelty. On top of that, Foxes love to look smart and sometimes misread the game because they are too arrogant and excited about the process. There are few limits to Fox’s pragmatism and she is amazing at using soft spots of Sheep. People who make Donkey decisions are of course no problem to Foxes as well.

“Devious is as devious does.”

Owls are those who are wise enough to spot the long-term benefits of developing genuine relationships that will later on get them the results they truly deserve. As an Owl you are always aware and prepared for the opportunities and the threats from the choices you must make when negotiating. You earn respect for what you do and how you do it (you certainly don’t exploit Sheep, Donkeys and Foxes).

“All negotiators should beware: many owls are closet Foxes!”

As much as I’d like to think of myself as a natural Owl negotiator, I should confess I’m a classic Sheep sometimes.

Who are you when you are sitting at the negotiating table?

Yours truly,


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