5 Lessons In Negotiation, As Taught By Frank Underwood

House Of Cards

Did you know 87 percent of people are apprehensive to negotiate?

Most people hate it; despise it. Some even compare negotiation to going to the dentist. But, negotiation shouldn't be a dirty word. It's a fact of life.

Well, it's a fact of life if you're not willing to lie down like a doormat and let everyone and anyone walk all over you.

Frank Underwood is the king of negotiation. If you're unfamiliar with "House of Cards," you're missing out on one of the best TV series since "M*A*S*H."

It's the story of a politician hungry for power and willing to do everything and anything to achieve success.

For those who are familiar with the show, I don't have to explain to you how ruthless and relentless the main character is. And, because of that, I hope those who haven't watched it will simply take my word for it.

In every episode, Frank Underwood negotiates a deal with senators, governors, congressmen and even presidents. He does so flawlessly, without flinching, without a bead of sweat and without hesitation.

So, why are we so apprehensive of negotiation? Well, it tends to be linked to our insecurities and the lies we tell ourselves to get out of actual acts.

In particular, things like:

- I'm only 25 years old; I'm pretty young to be making this kind of money. I should probably just be happy with where I am.

- I've only worked here for a couple years — I need to pay my dues.

- What if they say no? That will make me look bad. I'll have to go get a new job. OMG, what if they fire me for being so entitled?

-The company is in a rough spot. It's probably not the best time for me to ask for a raise. Maybe I should stay a while until they sort this out...

Sound familiar?

Well, most of those excuses are just that: excuses. Challenge yourself to make fewer excuses in 2015 and take more steps toward achieving the life of your dreams.

Let's start by changing how we negotiate. And, I'm not talking about getting a raise at your job.

Negotiation skills can be applied to credit card payments, phone bills, car payments, car insurance, work benefits and even an upgrade to a fancy suite at a nice hotel.

All of these things can be flipped in your favor if you embrace some of the key strategies that drive quality negotiations.

Let's look at some of the lessons Frank Underwood and life can teach us about this exact topic:

Don't Negotiate Without A Plan Of Attack

Unfortunately, I've witnessed people begin negotiations without having a plan in place.

With no time to plan and gather thoughts on what you want from a negotiation, it's likely you'll make a decision you will soon regret.

I've seen it; I've done it; I've regretted it.

Go In To Your Negotiations Prepared

Take the time to understand what exactly you're looking for and listen to the other person's requests. We often think we know what the person across the table wants, when we're really just leaping to conclusions based on assumptions.

That's a fast road to failure.

Take the time to write out some of the things you want and do your research before going into the meeting.

Don't just think about the various questions you want to ask; build a document that highlights exactly what you want and include supporting materials, like industry reports and anything else that will make you seem prepared.

This is what Ramit Sethi calls the briefcase technique.

Some Questions To Know Before Negotiating

1. What is a win-win situation for both parties?

2. How much do you want to make? How much do you need to make?

3. What is the market rate for people who have your skill set and experience?

4. What measurable results have you been able to bring to the table?

5. What are the key benefits for the other party?

If you're negotiating a salary, this is just the beginning.

You should be armed with information about your benefits, your commute to work, your manager, your colleagues, your office supplies, your company budget, vacation, spousal coverage, etc.

You should be armed with this information and also have an understanding of what it is you want.

Simply bringing these items to the table gives you a leg up in the negotiation. It makes the other party realize how serious you are about your job and demonstrates an attention to detail.

When someone agrees to a contract without careful review, he or she is often putting him or herself in a bad situation. This is why you need time.

And, if you're being pushed to make a decision without having time to plan, don't be afraid to say you need more time. It's your right to ask for more time to think about the terms of an agreement.

In a situation where Frank Underwood was pushed to make a decision without a lot of time to process the ramifications, he responded perfectly:

"I never make such big decisions so long after sunset and so far from dawn." - Frank Underwood

That's the mindset you need to have when you find yourself in a surprise negotiation. Make yourself believe you have an obligation beyond your own control for why you need to hold off on saying yes.

As a result, the person won't get defensive and feel as if you're against him or her. If it's a business deal, your approach could be as simple as saying,

"Okay, this sounds pretty good. Let me talk about this with my boss."

From there, you can come back and let him or her know 1) your boss agreed, or 2) your boss didn't agree, but you still want to figure out how to make something work.

Or, if you're negotiating a better room after getting poor service at a hotel, you could say something like,

"I really think this upgrade would be great, but I want to check with my spouse to ensure it's the right fit."

Again, this approach gives you more time to think, but also, the ability to stay on the good side of the person with whom you're negotiating. Ultimately, you should never commit to something until you have the time to prepare a decision.

Some people think asking for more time will set off a red flag. The opposite is true. If someone requires a quick close and pushes you to make a decision on the fly, it's a red flag.

There Is Always A Way To Make Something Work

After being a consultant for the last few years, I've quickly learned there is always a way to make something work. That's why the first question in the last section was about figuring out what a win-win situation would look like for both parties.

Let's say you're negotiating with a client who wants to work with you on a project, but his or her budget isn't where it needs to be.

You could definitely walk away from the project and cut your losses, but you could also get creative, like Frank Underwood, with how you approach it. In situations where a client wants to work with you, there are always options.

One approach is to stretch the project over a longer period of time so you can still take on other work to fill those gaps while servicing him or her at a slower rate.

Communicate to the client that you want to find a situation that works for both of you, and if he or she doesn't agree, consider the next approach.

Show And Know Your Value, Then Go After The Achilles

Danger: This isn't something you should use in every negotiation. In fact, I'd suggest you use it as infrequently as possible.

Why? This is a one-way street to a burnt bridge. Sure, sometimes you need to be like Frank Underwood and pull out the gasoline and watch that mother burn, but this tactic requires a level of relentlessness that can blow up in your face.

This is like going all in during a poker game. It's also something Frank Underwood is consistently willing to do, but remember, he's on a TV show and you're living your life.

During the early research stage, consider why this person would agree to your terms and what the biggest benefit is you bring to the table.

From an employment standpoint, will you leave a huge hole in the company? From a customer standpoint, will you hurt the company's sales or reputation?

Whatever it may be, bringing up the gap or potential repercussions of not signing the deal is the last item you can/should pull out of your hat. It's pretty relentless and definitely ruthless. But, that's Frank Underwood style.

I'm not suggesting you go out and take this final step but you can hold it in your back pocket for a rainy day.


Always keep the long-term big picture in mind.

One of the biggest mistakes you can make is to decide for short-term gain without considering the long-term ramifications.

While I'm not going to give away any spoilers, in season three of "House of Cards," we begin to witness Frank Underwood face the consequences of his own ruthlessness and actions.

Rather than striving to be like Frank Underwood, strive to be the best version of yourself. Stay informed and educated in your business. Strive to put yourself in situations that allow you to grow financially, emotionally and mentally.

Like the advice Eric Schmidt gave Sheryl Sandberg, "If you're offered a seat on a rocket ship, don't ask what seat! Just get on."

If you can commit to that, the whole negotiation process gets flipped on its head because instead of looking for the biggest paycheck, you'll be looking for the biggest opportunity to grow and a chance to work with people who will want to help you do exactly that.

Ross Simmonds writes at RossSimmonds.com, where he shares a research-backed studies and his personal perspective on entrepreneurship, life, communications and technology.

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This article was originally published on RossSimmonds.com.