Time and money Featured

7:56am EDT June 28, 2002
Ralph Cindrich calls to check if our 2 p.m. interview is still on. I reply that it is, and he asks if it's still a good time for me. Yes, I say, unless, of course, he needs to make a change.

"Could we make it 3?" he asks in a blink, negotiating for a little extra time to squeeze in a workout and get ready for a trip to Phoenix for a conference with his fellow sports agents. As it turns out, I'm a bit squeezed for time that afternoon, so the later meeting works for me, too.

The subtleties in the exchange might be lost in the narrative, but I'll assure you that at least some of Cindrich's skills as a negotiator came through loud and clear during that brief conversation.

There are lots of negotiating styles, and I'm sure you've encountered most of them. Before I met Cindrich, I figured he'd be a snarling dog in negotiations, given the high-stakes jousts he must engage in with team owners and their representatives. I pictured lots of red-faced confrontations, slamming of papers on desks and no shortage of tough language. I'm convinced now that I was dead wrong.

Instead, I'll bet he starts with evaluating the situation as it exists, making sure both parties agree where they stand, checking to see if there's some willingness to bend on the other side. If he senses there is, he suggests a move that might bring them closer, all the while making sure he shows consideration for his counterpart's situation.

Although he's no doubt determined to get the best for his client and not leave anything on the table that doesn't belong there, he knows it's a failing strategy to leave his adversary feeling beaten and humiliated because he'll likely have to face him again some day.

So I learned something from that experience about negotiating. Considering what's in the other guy's interest is just as important as whatever your own wants or needs might be.

Figuring out what things look like from the other side of the table can help you get what you're vying for, whether it's another hour or an extra million bucks.