Contract Negotiating Lessons from Hell: the DMV

Every interaction is a negotiation, even at the DMV. You can use these lessons to strengthen your contract negotiation skills.

Long lines. Paperwork. Inconsistent information. No smiling (in Virginia at least). Yes, the DMV truly is hell. And yet, there is help — use negotiation skills to make friends with DMV employees. It pays off.

But to get the importance of this story, you need to get some background.

Background Like This

A month ago, I had a miserable experience at the DMV. You probably have also. 3 trips there in one day, and I dealt with 4 bureaucracies by day’s end. But I got my new license.

I was pissed off and wanted to blow up. Despite my bad mood, I kept calm and was respectful. On top of that, I continually asked for new options (and previous exceptions to the rules).

These options and exceptions allowed me to get my license. And my calm manner and respectfulness earned me a new friend.

So I made a friend at the DMV. Who cares? Well, it certainly paid off.

Back to the Future…or Something

Fast forward to today. I needed to get new license plates, and I was told by a different DMV employee that I had the wrong paperwork. I was going to have to go home.

All of a sudden, my DMV friend sees me. My friend notices that other DMV employee had given me the wrong information. Turns out I had the correct paperwork, and I was saved.

Now I have my new license plates and more time all because my DMV friend took the extra time to notice me. This probably wouldn’t be the case today if I hadn’t been respectful and calm during my first trip.

Lessons Learned

Look for new options: The experts (i.e. DMV employees in my case) know all the ins and outs. Use their knowledge.
Find previous exceptions to the rules: Use exceptions as a way to get around the rules. Exceptions also let employees justify their actions to their bosses. Nobody wants to get in trouble. Give them a reason to help you.
Be Respectful: Don’t push someone into a corner. They will resent it and get back at you.
Keep your cool: Does blowing up really serve your goal? Probably not. Instead, count to 10. Seriously. It really works.

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