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Want the best price on a car? Offer the salesperson 15 percent to 20 percent less than what you can really afford. "That way, you'll be leaving room for concessions," says Richard Larrick, a business professor at Duke University.
updated 8/22/2008 12:54:13 PM ET 2008-08-22T16:54:13

Life is an endless series of negotiations, small and large. Getting a great deal on a new car, talking your husband into taking a vacation, enlisting reluctant co-workers to adopt your big idea, recruiting friends to a cause — all require clever powers of persuasion. Luckily, emerging research by psychologists, economists, and other experts can arm you with the skills you need to have things your way. Here's your cheat sheet.

Win the best possible price
Use the 15-to-20 percent rule: Buyers and sellers overestimate how good a deal they're making when it comes to a home, car, or similar item, says a recent study co-authored by Richard Larrick, PhD, a business professor at Duke University. Most of the time, researchers found, each party had more wiggle room than she thought — and could've used it to save or make more money.

If you are the buyer, offer the salesperson 15 percent to 20 percent less than what you can really afford. "That way, you'll be leaving room for concessions," Larrick says. For instance, if you absolutely can't spend more than \$6,000 on a used car advertised at \$7,000, try offering \$5,100 (15 percent less than \$6,000). Next: Explain why this price is reasonable (the car has a limited warranty or few of the extras you were hoping for). Reverse logic follows if you're the seller: Make the initial price 15 percent more than what you'd accept — if you must get \$6,000 for your car, offer it for around \$7,000 — and have reasons why. Remember: Set a realistic limit and have a plan B if you don't get a deal.

Be a problem solver: Women are more deft at resolving conflict than are their husbands, according to a new study by Iowa State University psychologists. That doesn't mean you should use your skills to always get your way — instead, rely on your superior problem-solving ability to take the lead in finding areas of compromise. A good way to start: Give a minor dispute — like where to vacation — the attention it deserves and ask your spouse to do the same, advises Carnegie Mellon University economist Linda Babcock, PhD, co-author of the new book "Ask for It: How Women Can Use the Power of Negotiation to Get What They Really Want."

Don't just say to your husband, "I want to go to Key West" — that's an intractable position, explains Babcock. Instead, talk about what you want out of your trip ("I'd like to go sailing and spend time at the beach"). Then suggest that he do the same, and seek common ground. You may find another seaside locale that features the PGA golf course he wants to play and sun and sand. "Find a resolution in the places where your interests intersect," says Babcock.

Influence co-workers
State your case over and over: When one person expresses an opinion repeatedly — in a friendly way — the effect is the same as several people lobbying the point, a study found. Repetition evokes a sense of familiarity, making it seem that convictions are widely shared, says study co-author Stephen Garcia, PhD, of the University of Michigan Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy.