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MOOCs to Increase Your Personal Power: Negotiation Strategies and Persuasion

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Hello everyone,

This morning, a close friend of mine forwarded me an interesting post by @earnyourleisure:

"During this time of social distancing, it's important to use your time wisely. If you’re interested in taking a college course you can start at the top.

Currently, all eight Ivy League colleges are offering 450 active, free courses across a range of topics digitally. To sign up you have to go to to find the area that you’re most interested in and sign up through that university’s website."

These free courses are called MOOCs or massive open online courses. They may not be the best for attracting job recruiters, but I found that they could be useful for growing your personal power after coming across this course from Yale.

This course teaches a theory of the "pie", which I had first heard when Lucio talked about it in this blog post:

Lucio: Steering towards win-win means that while you negotiate what’s good for you, you also keep an eye on how to make that pie larger for everyone.

I thought that the idea of making the pie larger for everyone was a really cool analogy that Lucio gave, but I had no idea that it was also an actual theory in negotiation until now.

This course has pretty good reviews and goes into some cool topics such as "expanding the pie", why it's best to never say no, how to prepare for a negotiation, making ultimatums, avoiding regret, and dealing with someone who has a very different perspective on the world. They even cover topics from negotiating when you have no power to negotiating over email.

I am sharing this because I understand that quarantine can be hard, but also a good opportunity to work on your social power. This particular course has a module called "Negotiation Caselets" where they use the pie-framework to teach "Start By Asking" which shares a salary negotiation done by one of the professor's students. I plan on taking the class, buying the certificate and doing a review upon completion :).

If anyone has experience with MOOCs or would like to share what they think, I'd love to hear your thoughts!


Ali Scarlett

P.S. Stay safe everyone. The US government just began shutting down all non-essential businesses in key states which means only pharmacies and grocery stores will be allowed to remain open pretty soon.

Lucio Buffalmano and Serena Irina have reacted to this post.
Lucio BuffalmanoSerena Irina

Crazy story, that title seemed familiar, so I had to look it up.

And 4 years ago a friend of mine had highly recommended me that exact same course :).

I totally agree with you, the quarantine can be an opportunity.
When I see people complain about how bored they are, I can't help but think "here is an underachiever". Not necessarily in a mean way, but in the literal way of someone who is not going to actualize their potential.

Yeah, let us know how it was.

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Serena Irina
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Introduction to Negotiation: A Strategic Playbook for Becoming a Principled and Persuasive Negotiator (Week 1 - Week 4): Summary & Review

Introduction to Negotiation: A Strategic Playbook for Becoming a Principled and Persuasive Negotiator is a 9-week online Yale college course on negotiation techniques in which Barry Nalebuff, the professor, makes the case that negotiation should be done using principled arguments.

Bullet Summary

  • Leverage the persuasive power of "because". Asking for the whole pie is not a valid argument and will not effectively persuade the other side to give you any more than what they believe is your fair share.
  • Principled arguments help you leverage the persuasive power of "because".
  • Look for opportunities to expand the pie. Expanding the pie means more pie for everyone, not just for the other side.

Full Summary

About The Professor: Barry Nalebuff is a Milton Steinbach Professor at Yale where he teaches negotiation, innovation, and game theory. He is the co-author of six books, co-founder of Honest Tea (a company that has grown organically to over $100 million in sales and was purchased by Coca-Cola). Alongside Honest Tea, Barry advised the NBA in their negotiations with the National Basketball Players Association and serves on the board of Nationwide Insurance. A graduate of MIT, Rhodes Scholar, and Junior Fellow at Harvard’s Society of Fellows, Nalebuff earned his doctorate at Oxford University.

Negotiation Concept/Theory: The Pie

The pie is how much more two parties can achieve by working together than they can get on their own. According to Barry Nalebuff, you should always calculate the pie. Then, since you're essential to make that pie, you should get at least half.

Negotiation Principles/Strategies:

Argument Flipping (& The Principle of Fairness)

*I coined this strategy "argument flipping" because it has no definitive name, but is reminiscent of the "frame flip" in frame control techniques.

This is a negotiation strategy where you take an argument made by the other side and flip it back on them to your benefit using fairness.

Here is an example from the course:

The Buyer: "Hey, we're Coca-Cola. For us, eight million isn't even a rounding error on a rounding error. For you, one million really matters a huge amount. It's the difference between life and death. Therefore, you should be happy with a million. We'll take the seven million. Thank you very much."

You: "Well, hey, Coca-Cola, you just told me you don't care. Eight million is a rounding error in a rounding error. So, nobody will notice if you don't even get it. Therefore, since we care so much, we'd like to have the seven million and you can have the one million. And who will notice?"

Negotiation Concept/Theory: BATNA

The terms "BATNA" and "reservation value" are both synonyms for walkaway price. As a seller, don't accept anything less than your reservation value/BATNA. As a buyer, don't pay more.

If it helps you to understand the concept of BATNA, ask yourself: "As a seller, what is the least amount I'd be willing to accept before walking away? As a buyer, what's the most I'd be willing to pay before walking away?"

Negotiation Principles/Strategies:

Never Say No

Never say no. Instead, let the other side say no to you. You can do this by making an offer the other side might reject, but that you'd be happy to take.

Ex: Imagine you're unhappy in your job and decide to quit. Instead of just quitting, come up with a package that would entice you to stay. Let the firm say no to you. The worst that can happen is they say no and you leave, but you were planning on doing that anyway. On the other hand, they might say yes.

If the other side says no to a package or deal that you would prefer, encourage them to come up with a package of their own that would entice them to take your deal.

You: "What would it take to get you to be on board with this deal?"


You: "Is there anything I can do to change your mind?"


One way to get power in a negotiation is to put yourself in a position where you can make ultimatums. (Use that power with discretion!)

The No Incentive Principle

A fair deal should have an incentive that acts as the motivation for parties to collaborate as opposed to working independently. If there's no incentive, then there's no fairness in the deal.

You: "To the extent that you need our help, our cooperation, our effort to make this all work, we aren't being appropriately incentivized. Whereas under this deal, we've got the incentives aligned with the action we want."

The Asymmetric Risk Principle

For a deal to be considered fair, the gains, as well as the risk, should all be fairly distributed.

You: "The risk is all off. The question is, there's a huge spread between my potential loss and potential benefit, where you are taking little to no risk whatsoever. Now, maybe you shouldn't take as much risk as me, but I don't know why it's all in one party rather than the other."

The Potential Regret Principle

An effective and legitimate principle is the idea of no regret.

You: "We could regret having made the decision to go with this deal if [insert risk that comes with deal] because in that case we are out [insert potential loss]. But under this deal, no matter what happens, whether [insert risk again] works out or doesn't, we are both still better off having done the deal than not."


You: "You know, I had the option of making [insert BATNA] and now if [insert risk that comes with deal] doesn't work out, I'm only going to be at [insert benefit remaining after potential loss]. So, it's true that if [insert risk again] works out I'll be up to [insert total benefit after potential gain] and that's better off. But I will regret having made this decision in the event that it doesn't work out."

The Principle of Fairness

Fairness is an effective principle to base your principled argument upon and operate as a more strategic negotiator. Barry Nalebuff says that it's not numbers we treat fairly in negotiations, it's people. You can use that logic to construct arguments that are harder to counter.

You: "This [insert numeric value of the pie] that might happen if the deal goes through is our incentive to work together. I can't do that without you and you can't do that without me. If you like, it takes two hands to make a handshake. So, since we need each other equally to make that happen, I think we should split it equally. 50, 50."

The Hypothetical Offer Tactic

This tactic is a clever way to encourage the other side to work with you to create new options when they're stuck or focused on only one or two options.

The Other Side: "It's either going to be package A or package B or the deal is off."

You: "Well, let's see. A is $25 million. Would you take $26 million?"

*Of course, the other side would want more money if it's an option. However, you're not saying that you'd give them more money, you're simply showing them that with a little joint problem-solving the both of you could find a better option than just the ones on the table. By doing this, you are able to block their ultimatum and work towards expanding the pie.

Negotiation Concept/Theory: Fight Fire with Fire

There's a big question of what happens when somebody makes a threat, an ultimatum, lies to you, etc. How should you respond? So, the question is really, when somebody lights a fire, how do you respond? A typical response is, meet fire with fire. The fight fire with fire approach is to basically say, I'll make a threat back to you.

Negotiation Principles/Strategies:

Put Out the Fire (Rational High Ground)

When someone lights a fire, put out the fire.

The Other Side: Delivers a threat.

You: "Do we really want to play that game? I could say the following to you, but I don't think that's going to help us get a deal."

Post-Settlement Settlement

A post-settlement settlement can be used to make both parties happier with the deal they've struck.

You: "I'm delighted that you're happy, my goal is to make us both happier. If I can't succeed in doing that, fine, we'll go back to the deal that we both like, so that's still on the table. But, please give me a chance to see if I can make us both better off because I'm pretty sure that's going to be a possibility."

Step Zero (Negotiation Preparation)

To be successful in negotiating, think carefully about what's important to you. Maybe it's money, maybe it's responsibilities, maybe it's a title, maybe it's the ability to have more experience so you can use that to move to the next level. It's hard to get the other side to give you what you want if you yourself don't know what to ask for.

Negotiation Concept/Theory: Anchoring

This is the theory (proven by studies) that the numbers people hear at the start of their negotiation will anchor where they end up.

Negotiation Principles/Strategies:


*I won't go too into detail on this because Lucio has some great book reviews that explain anchoring better than I can.

If you have the opportunity to make the first offer, a low bid may help you lower the final price. If you're selling, a high asking price may help you get more money. This is one of the advantages of going first because the first number people hear serves as an anchor or starting point. Thus, a low bid will drag down your view as to the right starting point and similarly, hearing a high number will pull up your view as to the best asking price.

A couple of quick qualifications to consider before anchoring:

  1. Starting too low or too high may be counterproductive because your first offer conveys both an anchor and information. If as a seller your asking price is too high, buyers might think you're out of touch and wouldn't bother to waste their time by bidding. Conversely, if as a buyer you start with a bid that's too low, it could demonstrate that you have no idea what the seller's product/service is worth (or worse, that you do and are trying to steal the product/service from under them.)
  2. In some cases, a low anchor might help you get a higher price. The reason is that it brings more people into the bidding which helps raise the price.

Ignoring the Anchor

If you're on the receiving end and the other side presents you with a low first offer or high first ask, you should be aware of the anchoring effect and consciously counter it.

You: "I think we may be looking at this deal in very different ways. Let's try and find some common ground by discussing..."

Good Cop, Bad Cop

A covert threat that communicates: "If you don't do this deal with me, you'll have to face my tough, hard-hitting partner to finish the negotiations on this deal."

The Other Side: "I think this deal is gonna go more smoothly then it could have because actually, luckily for you, my co-worker who would usually be here to do this deal is actually working another deal. So, she couldn't be here today and she's a hard hitter. I am easy-going."

Calling the other side out on their good cop, bad cop game can start the negotiations off on a bad foot and implicitly letting their covert threat go communicates that you accept their threat (and approve of this power relationship) which puts you in a weak position. So, here's how Barry Nalebuff recommends handling it:

You: "I guess we're both lucky. My wife's not here either even though she's a pretty hard hitter too, so it's okay."

The Precise Bid Tactic

A precise number gets a much better response/counter than a rough number because, with precise numbers, people think that you have some logic behind it, some principle that you've given consideration and thought to in your ask. Instead, if you're just putting up rough numbers, the other side thinks you haven't given great consideration and will respond/counter thinking that maybe you have no idea what your item is worth.

*Quick note for clarification: making a price which is a really round number like $200 will have a much worse response than a precise bid such as $197. A quite strategic way of getting more by asking for less :).

Put Out the Fire (Humor Framing): Outrageous Offers

When someone lights a fire, a good way to defuse the situation is to use a little bit of humor while letting the other side know that what they asked for wasn't appropriate.

You: "That's great! Where do I sign?"

You: "Just kidding. Because if that's really what you want, I don't think a deal's gonna be possible."

Negotiation Quick Tips:

Pay Attention

You don't have to be able to read micro-expressions like an expert, but if you aren't even looking at the person (say, for instance, you have your attention on your phone) then you have no hope of picking up on when the other side may be lying to you. Even if you can't recognize lies, don't make it easier for the other side to lie to you. Look at the person. Make eye contact.

Don't Lie

When you lie, you complicate the negotiations. Admitting you lied or fabricated information creates a whole different series of problems. How can the other side trust anything you say going forward?

Negotiation Principles/Strategies:

Recovering From A Lie

A good general rule to follow is that when you're in a hole, stop digging. In other words, adding on more lies or furthering the lie you created only gets you in deeper.

You: "My current salary is $10,000 more than what you've offered."

The Other Side: "Fine, just bring us a current pay stub and we can match it."

You: "I'm so embarrassed. I feel you were very sincere with me and I didn't reciprocate. When I told you that my salary was $10,000 more than what you're offering, I exaggerated. I'm really sorry and I want to apologize to you. I hope you realize that I've learned my lesson and that we could still work together."

Real-Life Applications

Expanding the Pie as a First Resort

In negotiations, buyers will sometimes make the mistake of arguing what the seller's product is worth to be more persuasive in their reasoning for why they believe they should pay less for it. A more productive approach is to start the negotiations off in agreement with the seller on whatever it is they think their product is worth so you can redirect the conversation towards how both of you can make the pie bigger for everyone.

You: "This is what I can do. Work with me and help me to find a way to make this deal possible at the price that I can pay. In particular, I may not be able to pay you as much cash as you like, but what are some of the other things that I can do to help make your life good? What are some of the things that you are worried about in this deal? What are some of the things that excite you about this deal? How can I help relieve you of the worries and increase the level of excitement? And I know, of course, that more cash is always good but what are some of the things besides cash that will make this deal better for you?"

You should seek to expand the pie before butting heads with the other side on just the dollar amounts of the deal. A lot of people look for opportunities to expand the pie as a last resort when there's no other way of making the deal work. By expanding the pie as a first resort, you accrue the benefit of getting people invested in the negotiation and also help appreciate how big a pie can be created.

You: "Look, at some point we are gonna be talking about dollars, I know that. And that's going to be confrontational because you're always going to want me to pay more and I am always going to want to pay less. But before we get there, let's talk about what excites you, what motivates you and how I can help make this deal work better for you."


You: "What else can I do besides giving you money that would make your life better? What other ways can I make you happier about this transaction besides just paying more? I know later we're going to talk about the money and that's going to be an issue of contention but right now what are things I can do to help make this deal work better for you without necessarily paying money?"


  • A Bit Disorganized

My personal feeling is that the course could have done better in terms of how the material is laid out for its students. I spent a lot of time coming up with names for different strategies so it would be easier to spot and remember them because the professor did not provide names for all of the tactics, principles, etc. in the course. I would also come across a certain strategy in one week and then a week and a half later come across the same strategy after we had already covered it and moved on as a class (which can be slightly confusing and annoying).

  • Some Risky Suggestions

One example of a risky suggestion the course gives is in the usage of humor. Using a bit of humor to communicate to the other side that their outrageous offer is not appropriate works as a good strategy most of the time. However, I can only imagine how joking that you're ready to sign a deal would go over with the other side after hours of heated negotiation and social effort. If done improperly or ill-timed, the joke can make you come across as someone who is immature and doesn't care about the deal or the other side's time and energy. The last thing you want to do is break rapport and sour a relationship by offending someone this way.

  • Lots of Math

Early on in the course, there is a hefty amount of math you have to work through. It was worth it in the end for my understanding of the pie concept, but it felt a bit overdone since most daily negotiations don't require extensive mathematical knowledge.

  • Slightly Unfocused

I took lots of notes on this course. Unfortunately, I spent a great deal of time piecing certain strategies and principles together to make sense of how they all tie together, which took away from the time I could've spent learning and is something that I felt should have been done already.


Lots of Genius 
This is a Yale course, so I had set my expectations pretty high. So far, I have taken 19 pages worth of notes in total on this course and I'm only halfway through it :).

Doesn't Shy Away from the Dark Side of Negotiation
Before taking the course, I didn't read anything in the course syllabus about the professor covering negotiation threats and how to deal with them, so that was a nice surprise.

Many Examples
I appreciated that there were a lot of video examples of negotiations as well as stories the professor uses to teach how to negotiate by recalling his negotiations as the co-owner of his company, Honest Tea.


So far, I'm enjoying this Yale course.

However, a large part of me knows that this is more like a well-rounded introduction to negotiation and not the end-all-be-all of training in negotiation and persuasion.

I left out nine and a half pages worth of notes from this review and still have 4 weeks left in this course, so I figured it was best to post a review now instead of waiting all 9 weeks and making this post ridiculously long.

I'm not sure if I'll do another review at the end of the 9 weeks yet, we'll see.


I know I'm not the most articulate, so if there's something I didn't explain well that you didn't understand, feel free to let me know.

Stay healthy!


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Lucio BuffalmanoJPSerena Irina

Thank you for this beautiful review, Ali!

Would you like to publish it as a post?

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Hi Lucio,

Glad you enjoyed it!

Maybe I'm misunderstanding, but I thought it was already published as a forum post.

Are you asking if I would like to publish it as a new topic in the forum?


Hi Ali,

Yeah, I was a bit confusing there. It's already posted as a forum post.
I mean if you were interested in publishing it as an article review (I wrote post, I meant article).

Forum posts don't rank very high on search engines -some are, but not all-.
So for example, if someone one day is searching for "introduction to negotiation review" on Google, then they will more likely to read your notes and reviews if it's in a post format.

Up to you.

Check the forum guidelines for effective communication.
(Book a call) for personalized & private feedback

Hi Lucio,

I hadn't taken SEO into consideration. If publishing my post as an article would help people find your awesome website, then I think that's a great idea.

I adjusted the format to fit a forum post, which makes it a little different from the format you use in your book reviews section. If there are any changes you would like to make or notes you feel like adding, you're more than welcome to do that as well :).

Let me know when the article is up!

Best regards,


P.S. I just graduated!

Serena Irina has reacted to this post.
Serena Irina

Ahaha awesome Ali, well done!

Would you like to publish it with your name?
It's your work after all, so people who end up there know it's you.

Instead of having my card at the end of the post, we can switch it with yours:

Plus I think if we do it from your account it would also appear on Google results as "review by Ali" (the name depends on how you registered)

Serena Irina has reacted to this post.
Serena Irina
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While I appreciate the thought and think that's a good idea, I would only want to do so if it doesn't compromise your ability to add your own affiliate links.

Especially in these crazy and uncertain times, your ability to help The Power Moves make more money and continue doing its great work is most important to me.

I have enough credit already seeing as my review is here in the forum :).

Serena Irina has reacted to this post.
Serena Irina

Hi Lucio,

I just realized that I may be violating the law of social effort in not allowing you to give back by adding my card, which would be disrespectful to you.

My sincerest apologies if I offended you in any way, I'm still new to power dynamics. I noticed you said in another forum post that if you are treated unfairly you have a negative social balance and must settle that balance. Since you have not responded to my above post, I'm still not fully sure any lines were crossed but would appreciate a response so I can continue to improve myself.

I read your book Ultimate Power and was inspired by your continuous effort to empower others when I found out that 10% of our business is going towards abuse victims and disaster relief (hence my concern for your affiliate links).

Either way, I think I'm learning :). Let me know if you're still up for this article, I look forward to hearing from you.

Best regards,


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