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Teaching People to Negotiate



Being a good negotiator is a skill you will find useful in
many situations and especially as you participate in your family.  The skills you will develop will facilitate
your being more effectively assertive, being a better problem solver, and being
a better conflict manager.  Developing
the skills is sometimes tedious and requires a lot of practice.  The payoff is both substantial and positive,

At first, it will be useful to move through the negotiation
process in a step-by-step manner.  With
practice and experience, you will gradually get to a point where effective
negotiating is second nature to you and is not something that requires a lot of
detailed activity.  At first, though, it
is important to develop a negotiating plan, to seek out opportunities to
practice, and to work with your consultant as your coach and negotiating
guide.  It is a little like learning to
play the piano.  Learning how is tedious
and time consuming.  Being able to play
well, however, is a very satisfying thing indeed.


1. What do you want that I have, control, or can do?  As odd as it may seem, this is frequently the
step that inexperienced negotiators leave out. 
Very specifically, what do you want that I have?  Here, we are talking about things, about
concrete and tangible objects.  What do
you want that I control?  Here we are
talking about opportunities, resources, time, or other less tangible
“things.”  What do you want me to do that
I can do?  Here, it is important to think
in terms of things that anyone with my skills, in my position, and with my
resources “can do.”  In very specific
terms, what do you want from me?

2. With “it” referring to what you want, can I actually give
it to you?  This is another point that
amateur negotiators frequently overlook. 
What they want is something that the other person cannot, as a matter of
individual choice, give to them.  Perhaps
other people are involved, maybe it is not something that the individual has
the right or authority to simply give away, perhaps it is not something that
the person can actually do, or maybe there are other factors that have to be
taken into consideration other than simply deciding to give it to you.  Under these conditions, simply negotiating
with you is not enough, since I cannot simply give you what you want.  Be sure that your negotiations are directed
to the individual or people who can give it to you.  Who all do you need to include in the
negotiations?  You should not leave
anyone out.

3. Assuming I can give you what you want, under what
conditions do you think I can give it to you? 
If you believe that I will simply give it to you without conditions,
there is nothing about which to negotiate. 
Simply ask me and I will give it to you. 
Here, though, let’s assume that you think I will give it to you under
some conditions.  In specific terms, what
are those conditions?

4. Under what conditions will you accept it – accept what
you want – assuming I am willing to give it to you?  Yes, you undoubtedly have conditions.  Suppose you want to use my car for a week
while yours is in the shop.  It is my
car, and I can let you use it.  You think
I will let you use it if you agree to take good care of it, bring it back with
a full tank of gas, and you pay my bus fare for the week.  Suppose my conditions are a little different,
however.  I agree to let you use my car
for one week if you agree to make my car payments for one year.  You will undoubtedly say, “No way.”  The point is that you do have
conditions.  Under what conditions will
you accept what you want if I give it to you?


5. A successful negotiation is a conditional
transaction.  We do business under
certain conditions.  If you are still in
the game to this point, you have a clear statement of what you want, a set of
conditions that you think I will have in doing business, and your conditions
for doing business.  Make a chart with
two columns with the left column including a list of your conditions and the
right column including a list of my conditions. 
Now, what are the points of convergence: conditions on your list and on
mine?  The more points of convergence
there are, the further along the negotiations are going in.  Your goal, of course, will be to reach a
point where there is complete convergence, a point where the conditions on your
list are the same as the conditions on my list.

6. What are the points of divergence: conditions that are on
your list but are not on mine and conditions that are on my list but not on
yours?  Being careful to be very
specific, now, make a master list that includes only our points of divergence,
noting beside each point whether it is my condition or your condition.  We will then negotiate our points of

As a central negotiating principle, keep in mind that you
are never negotiating about what you want. 
That is a given and is actually nonnegotiable.  If you did not want it, there is no point in
pursuing it.  We are simply negotiating
the terms and conditions under which I will give it to you: our points of
divergence.  Amateur negotiators
frequently fall into the trap of focusing on what they want.  Skilled negotiators focus on the points of
divergence: what we will call the transfer conditions.


7. What do you have, what do you control, or what can you do
that would be of value to me?  Look at my
transfer conditions.  You may use them as
a guide for determining what may be of value to me in this particular
negotiating situation.  Make a list that
includes what you can give to me in this particular negotiating situation.  Make notation of why you think it would be of
value to me.  What benefits will I
derive?  What you give to me combined
with the benefits I will derive from it represent the consideration you are
offering in the negotiation.

As a summary point, you have determined what you want, have
determined the transfer conditions, and now have determined what your
consideration can be to induce me to follow through with the transfer.  The stage for negotiating is set.

8. What are your negotiating limits?  Review your list of consideration
elements.  Can you actually transfer
control of them to me?  What are the long
and short term implications for you of making this transfer?  Once you have considered the implications,
revise your consideration list to include only those things you can give to me
without jeopardizing yourself over time.  This final list is what constitutes your
negotiating limits:  the maximum
consideration you are prepared to introduce into the negotiations.  At no point, and especially not during a
specific negotiating session, should you go beyond your negotiating limits, no
matter how tempting it may be.  Yes, you
may miss an opportunity once in a great while. 
The advantage to you is this: making an unexpected offer you cannot
refuse is a game run by truly skilled negotiators.  Assume that he/she is at least as skilled as
you are and is not about to “give away the store.”  What seems like an unexpected prize will
usually turn out to be something for which you will pay dearly and without the
benefit of prior thought or analysis.  As
good negotiators say, “Never come to the bait!”

9. Importantly, following all of the above steps gets you to
what you think will be the final outcome of the negotiations.  You think you will get what you want, the
full consideration I have to offer.  You
have also determined your negotiating limits: the maximum consideration you
will offer.  If you want, simply make
your best offer on a take it or leave it basis. 
This is, of course, not negotiating. 
It is rather simply making a nonnegotiable offer.  What should you do if you want to negotiate,
though?  Simply list the preliminary
transfer conditions: the least you are willing to accept and what you believe –
hope – might be the least I would accept in return.  These then represent the minimum transfer
conditions.  Negotiations now begin.


10. Always start with a consideration for consideration
offer: a presentation of the minimum transfer conditions well within your
negotiating limits.  Declare yourself up
front.  “You have something I want and I
have something you want.  I am a
negotiator.  Let’s negotiate about the
transfer conditions.”  For example, “I
would like for you to…I understand that it would be something that would change
things a little for you.  I think that I
have an offer that will make it a comfortable thing for you, though.  In consideration of your…, I will…”  Simply fill in your consideration and my
consideration: the minimum transfer conditions. 
You have made me a consideration for consideration offer and have done
so in a way that lets me know that you are a serious negotiator.

If I begin negotiating, all is well.  I might say, “I might think about what you
want from me; but what you’re offering is not enough for me to give you what
you want, you will need to…”  I have made
a counter offer and we are “horse trading” as the negotiators say.  Suppose I say, “No.”  Are the negotiations over?  Being a good negotiator you understand my
saying “No” as simply my first negotiation offer.  You say, “That really surprises me.  Under what conditions would you…?”  I will then probably make an opening offer –
present an initial set of transfer conditions to you.  If not, you simply learned that what you want
is – from my point of view – simply not negotiable.

11. The following tips have been found by good negotiators
to increase their negotiating effectiveness and increase the extent to which
they are respected as effective negotiators.

(a) Stay relaxed and friendly.

(b) Remember the 80-20 rule. 
Eighty percent of the movement – progress – will be made in the last 20
percent of the time available for negotiating. 
Knowing this makes it easier to stay relaxed and much easier to be

(c) Keep your focus on the negotiations – the transfer
conditions.  Skilled negotiators will try
to distract you, will talk about things unrelated to the negotiations, and try
to diffuse your focus.  Through this
process, keep your internal focus, your mind’s eye on the negotiations.

(d) Ask for and suggest options.  When suggesting options, raise – only as
possibilities – different mixes or combinations of consideration.  Here, it is important to take care to always
stay within your negotiating limits.

(e) Always remember that you are negotiating and never
simply trying to get your own way.  Your
focus is on the transfer conditions and includes your giving me something in
exchange for what you hope to get.

12. The following negotiating strategies appear subtle and
not easily seen from the point of view of the negotiation novice.  For a skilled negotiator like the one you are
becoming, though, they are easy to spot and are an important part of your
negotiating repertoire.

(a) Use the first third of the available negotiating time
simply to get a feel for my interest. 
Importantly, you will also determine what I want; but my interest
represents how I think I will be better off if we are able to successfully
complete our negotiations.  “Interest” is
not what I want but rather “Why” I want it.

(b) Once you have a feel for my interest, develop a priority
listing of that interest as you understand it. 
Put my most important interest – my most important “Why” at the top of
the list and then continue listing my interest in terms of descending priority
for me.

(c) Acknowledge and facilitate my interest in the priority
order you have developed.

(d) Based on your understanding of my interest, take time to
show me how I am going to be better off.

(e) As you talk about the transfer conditions, be very
clear.  Show me who, what, when, where,
why, and – most importantly – how.

(f) Within any exchange – meeting transfer conditions –
there are some risks.  If there were no
risks to me including no possibility of being less well off after I give you
what you want, I would probably simply give it to you.  I would understand that as doing you a favor
and, if nothing else, would expect that you might reciprocate at some point in
the future.  When negotiating, there are
always some risks.  Be up front with me
and very specific about the risks.  Show
me all of the risks.  This will require
that you think about the situation from my point of view, from my
perspective.  Good negotiators are
superbly skilled with this aspect of the process.  From my point of view, what are the risks?  It is always better if you bring them up and
define them clearly for me than if I bring them up in the process.

(g) As you interact with me, limit the amount of detail you
bring into the process, be very accurate, and always have more detail available
to expand on or back up anything you say. 
Wait for me to request the additional detail, though.  If I do not request it, it is appropriate for
you to indicate that more detail is available if I would like to have it.  Let it go at this, though.  (From a strategic point of view, this puts
you in the position of being the expert who is teaching me.)

(h) Show me how we will share the risks and
responsibilities.  Remember that the
person with whom you are negotiating will be more comfortable if the risks and
responsibilities are shared as opposed to either you accepting all of the risk
or responsibility or the other person accepting all of the risk or
responsibility.  From this perspective,
the key is to maintain each of us as equal participants in the process.

(i) Always let me be the one to make the final
decision.  Even if I may have made the
last offer and you are prepared to accept it say, “I think you have made an
offer I can accept.  I think we are about
to a point where we can agree to agree. 
What do you think?”  Whenever
possible, let me make the final decision. 
Why?  Because I will feel better,
feel more in control, and feel more comfortable with the position into which
you have gotten me.

(j) Always credit me with having made a good decision.  Say, “I feel like you have made a really good
decision.  I appreciate the time you have
spent talking with me about this.”  What
if my decision was to simply stop negotiating and not do what you wanted me to
do?  The response is the same.  “I appreciate the time you have taken to talk
with me about this.  All things
considered, I think you have made a good decision from your point of view.  It did not turn out quite the way I wanted it
to turn out; but I respect the decision you have made.”  Why do this? 
You never know; you may want to negotiate with me again.  You have left our relationship at a point
where I feel good about you and about negotiating with you again.  Save your negative feelings or reactions for
a later time when you are by yourself and can say anything you want to say.  At the point our negotiations stop, though, take
care not to “burn your bridges behind you,” as they say.


13. The following tips are used by serious and expert
negotiators.  Watch for them when
negotiating. When they appear, know immediately that you are negotiating with an
expert.  Over time, you will find them
becoming more and more a part or your negotiating style.

(a) Be who you are with style, all the time, on purpose.

(b) When you have gotten most of what you wanted while
remaining within your negotiating limits, stop negotiating.  Remember the 80-20 rule?  It also applies here.  You will almost always get about 80 percent
of what you want; and trying to get the other 20 percent usually jeopardizes
the 80 percent you have already gotten. 
This point backs off a little from an earlier point that said that what
you want is not negotiable.  For the
beginner, this “what I want is not negotiable” point applies.  For the expert, though, getting 80 percent of
what you want 80 percent of the time you negotiate means that, over time, you
will consistently get almost two-thirds of everything you want, which is
probably at least 80 percent more than you have to have.  It may not be the pot of gold at the end of
the rainbow, but it is more than adequate for the good life.

(c) Never argue. 
Remember, you are a negotiator and arguing only lets the other person
know that you are not a first-class negotiator. Let me argue if I wish.  You negotiate with style, all the time, on
purpose and understand that arguing is not negotiating.

(d) If you can avoid it, never let the negotiations reduce
to a single issue.  Never let
negotiations reduce to a single condition either on your list or mine.  If necessary, reintroduce a condition that
seems to have already been resolved. 
Why?  If there is only one issue,
then it quickly becomes a simple yes or no decision.  In this case, there is no further room for
negotiating; and a box has been created. 
One of us has to decide yes or no. 
It becomes a “take it or leave it” proposition.  As discussed earlier, if things get to this
point, we are no longer negotiating. 
Keep enough issues “on the table” to assure that there is always
negotiating content or “grist for the mill,” as they say.

(e) Remember that people do not want the same things.  You know someone is running a game on you if
he/she says, “After all, we want the same thing.”  This is virtually never true.  You want to actualize your interest and I
want to actualize mine.  We may have some
shared or common interest; but we will also have some interest that are not
shared.  As a skilled negotiator, you
will recognize and acknowledge both our shared interest and those interest we
hold as individuals.

(f) Understand and mention my needs, problems, and
interest.  When you do this, though, do
not state them as facts.  Say instead,
“If I understand, you have a problem (need – interest) that I understand in
this way…”  Once you have mentioned the
problem as you understand it, ask me, “Does it seem to you like I understand or
do we need to talk about this some more so I better understand?”  Always convey a sense to me that I, my
problems, my needs, and my interest are important to you and are being taken
seriously by you.

(g) Always keep your focus on task – on the
negotiations.  Never shift focus to me or
to personalities.  Even when you are
talking with me about your perceptions of my problems, needs, and interest, do
so in ways that are related to our negotiations – to the transfer conditions.

(h) Focus on task with flexibility.  If my style is to let the conversation drift,
socialize, talk about other things, or to move away form task, “go with the
flow.”  Always be personable, friendly,
and interested.  At the same time,
though, look for opportunities to return to task gently, tactfully, and without
becoming forceful or pushy.


14. Some final tips will help you polish your negotiating
skills.  The list below are seen
frequently when negotiators are running a game. Watch for those times when the
game is being run with you; and as your skill increases, you may want to
carefully and cautiously run the game on the person with whom you are
negotiating, although do this sparingly.

(a) Nibbling – you think that the negotiations are
over.  Just as we are about to commit to
the agreement, I come back for a little more – a little nibble.  The idea is to make you think that I might
simply back out of the agreement if you do not go along with this little
nibble, give me a little extra.  Not
responding to the nibble seems hardly worth jeopardizing the agreement.  Just remember that a game is being run on

(b) Set aside – especially during the first 80 percent of
the negotiating process, one or two issues tend to come up that seem
insurmountable.  This game suggests that
you simply get me to agree to set that issue aside for a while, giving us time
to work on other issues.   The idea is
that, once we have agreed on all the other issues, the one that was set aside
will not seem that important or unmanageable. 
Also, we will have spent a lot of time and energy almost coming to
agreement.  The issue that was set aside
then looms as a relatively small issue in relationship to everything that has
already been accomplished.  At that
point, the self-perceived pressure is to agree on the issue that was set
aside.  It may, in fact, be the most
important issue in the whole negotiation. 
Nonetheless, it usually gets resolved very quickly toward the end of the
negotiating process.  If the issue that
is being set aside is really important to you, refuse to set it aside saying,
“I think we need to deal with this now. 
We could agree about everything else; but if this is still in the way,
we still have a problem.  Let’s talk
about this now.”

(c) Good guy/Bad guy – this comes up when you are
negotiating with more than one person, keeping in mind that you include
everyone in the negotiations who has any control or influence over the
consideration sought.  You are talking
with one of the people and he/she says, “I would like to do this, would like to
go along with you.  The real problem is
(put in the name of the other person involved.) 
He/she is really hard to deal with about this.  If you will go along with me on a couple of
points, I will see if I can get him/her to go along with what you want.”  It is the old cartoon situation of the
harried mother trying to get the youngster to cooperate.  She says, “Either you deal with me now –
cooperate with me – or you can ‘wait till your father gets home.’ ”

(d) Reject the first offer – this is exactly what it sounds
like, although sometimes it is not understood as simply a game someone is
running.  The person simply assumes that
you have not made your best offer and rejects your first offer to induce you to
improve on it.  Instead of automatically
improving on your first offer, then, you might say, “Wow! That really surprised
me. That is about as good as I can do. 
Just out of curiosity, what kind of offer would you consider?”  The other person then makes an offer.  Running the same game, you say, “I’m sorry, I
don’t think I heard you correctly.  You
did not suggest…, did you?”  The other
person then indicates that this is what was said.  You then say, “That is way beyond anything I
can handle right now.”  He/she then says,
“What could you handle?”  You then say,
“What I originally suggested is about all I can handle right now.”

(e) Play dumb – at some point in the process we will get to
a point where we are getting fairly close to agreement.  If you were to give a little more or request
a little less or if I were to give a little more or request a little less, we
would be in agreement.  Think about this
in terms of money.  Suppose you are at
twelve dollars and I am at sixteen dollars. 
The temptation is to say, “Let’s split the difference – let’s compromise
at fourteen dollars.”  Never do
this.  See if you can get me to do
it.  Say, “I can see that we are only
four dollars apart.  That’s fairly
close.  I don’t know what to do.  Do you have any suggestions?”  I will probably then suggest that we split
the difference at fourteen dollars.  You
then say, “Well, that is surely better. 
I can see you’re really trying to make this work.  We are just about there.  Being two dollars apart is not much.  If we were just a little closer, I think I
would be okay with the agreement.  What
do you suggest?”  Just be sure not to
push the game to far.  Probably getting
me someplace more toward you than simply splitting the difference is the point
at which you should say, “You have definitely worked out something we can both
be comfortable with.  I think we should
agree on the thirteen dollars you are suggesting.  What do you think?”  Never go for the “last ounce of flesh,” as
they say.

(f) The ice cream cone – you know you are dealing with an
expert negotiator when this game is being run. 
I have an ice cream cone and you would like to have it.  I am asking for a little more consideration
than you are willing to offer.  I say to
you, “Why don’t you go ahead and have a bite. 
If it is not just what you want, I’ll keep what’s left and you do not have
to give me anything.”  My hope is that
once you have tried it you will develop an immediate desire for the rest of the
ice cream cone and will give me a little more than you had intended to offer so
that you can have it now.  Salesmen who
offer a free home trial – with no obligation – are running this game.  Youngsters who are skilled negotiators are
also running the game when their offer is to do the dishes if you will reduce
control over their activities enough to enable them to go to a movie.  The youngster says, “I would like permission
to go to the movie and thought that, since you are going to do this nice thing
for me, I would do the dishes even though it is not my turn.”  The youngster has made a good consideration
for consideration offer.  You say, “No, I
do not think that your going to the movie tonight is a good idea.”  The expert negotiator does not see this as a
final decision.  Rather, he/she runs the
ice cream cone game.  You go into the
kitchen forty-five minutes later to find out the dishes have been done.  If for some reason you did not go in, he/she
will find some reason why you should come into the kitchen.  You then see that the dishes are done and
say, “Well, you went ahead and did the dishes. 
I told you that you could not go to the movie.”  Our junior negotiator then says, “I know, I
just thought that doing the dishes would be a nice thing to do anyway.”  Will you simply say “thank you” or reconsider
your “no movie” decision?  As with other
games, it was worth a try, from the young person’s point of view.

(g) Willing to walk – never get into a position where you
are not willing to walk, terminate the negotiations.  If I ever get the impression that you will
hang in there no matter what, you are totally at my mercy.  At a minimum, I will probably be able to get
you to give me more than you really wanted to give.  Also, I will simply “dig in” and give no more
than I have already offered.  In fact, if
I really believe that you will not walk, you may find me actually reducing my
offer.  Simply remember that, if you ever
reach a point where you are unwilling to walk, the negotiations are over.  The outcome is totally under my control.

(h) Horse trading – remember that 80 percent of the movement
will occur during the final 20 percent of the process.  Here we are talking about an old horse
trading principle.  Always save a little
of your consideration for the final moments of the negotiating process.  Do not run out of negotiating room until you
get to the end of the negotiating process. 
Always have a couple of options left for horse trading.  Another benefit is that I will leave the
negotiation feeling that I got the last concession.  That will make me feel a little smug and feel
as if I am the superior negotiator. 
Among other things, this will probably lead to my underestimating you
the next time we negotiate.

(i) Out waiting – the person with whom you are negotiating
will gradually get a little frustrated and will want to move the process
along.  He/she will probably be impatient
with only 20 percent of the progress being made during the first 80 percent of
the available time.  Here, the key is to
relax, be patient, and simply out wait the other person.  There is a strong likelihood that he/she will
make an additional offer, increase his/her consideration, or do something else
to move the process along.  Just by being
more patient and waiting, you have gotten more of what you wanted.

(j) Withdraw your offer – this is an easy game to run but
must be managed very sparingly and very cautiously.  Suppose you have offered to spend a half-hour
with someone and he/she wants you to spend an hour.  The negotiations seem to be reaching an
impasse.  You say, “Well, maybe it is
just as well that we aren’t coming to agreement about this.  As I think about it, I’m not sure that I even
have half-an-hour.  Probably fifteen
minutes or so is really all I can spare right now.”  The idea is that the other person will feel
like the deal is getting away from him/her. 
Instead of holding out for the hour, he/she will grasp at the thirty
minutes that seem to be slipping away. 
The other person says, “Wait a minute. 
You offered to spend a half-an-hour. 
I’m going to hold you to that.” 
You say, “Well, I really do not have the time to spare; but since I did
agree to a half-an-hour, I will be as good as my word.  You have a half-an-hour.”

(k) The reluctant dealer – this is a little bit like
withdrawing the offer.  Instead, you take
the position that we can talk about this but that you are really reluctant to
even consider it.  “I have a lot of
reservations about this.  It is just
something that I am not very comfortable with. 
We can talk about it; but I really don’t think it is something I can
handle at this point.”  The game is to
get me to convince you not only why you should give up your consideration but
why you should want and accept the consideration I am offering.  This puts me in the position of needing to
manage both sides of the negotiations, with your reluctant participation.

(l) The decoy – this game is run by true experts.  It works like this.  You make what you think is a simple,
straightforward consideration for consideration offer.  My goal is to complicate the
negotiations.  I do this by either making
things seem like they are a lot more complicated than they really are or by
introducing elements or issues into the negotiations that are not really
relevant or at issue.  I simply introduce
them as if they were relevant or at issue, assuming that you will treat anything
I say as relevant and important.  For
example, a teenager wants to use the care. 
He/she offers to buy the gas, be in by midnight, and wash the car before
using it.  A nice consideration for
consideration offer.  The parent, running
the decoy game, says, “I don’t know.  You
know that there was a really bad wreck last night and three youngsters were
injured.  I just don’t know about your
using the car.”  This is a pure decoy or
what is sometimes referred to as a red herring. 
The problem for the youngster is to decide whether this is a negotiating
game that is being run or if the parent is someone who just brings up
irrelevant issues.  The youngster says –
being a good negotiator – “That was really a bad accident.  You are like me.  We are both still shocked about it.  Is being in at twelve o’clock okay?”  Good for our junior negotiator.  Not only was the decoy parried, the comeback
was one that simply assumed use of the car and moved the negotiations to the
time to come home.  With that kind of
skill already shown, we can simply assume that twelve o’clock was well within
the negotiating limit and that a somewhat earlier time would be
acceptable.”  How did the negotiation
end?  As the youngster walked out the
door to get into the car, the parent said, “Be careful and be sure to be in by

(m) A last trick in the game runner’s bag – we have written
what we hope has been a professional book that maintained the proper level of
objectivity and style.  Since we have
come to the end, we thought that you might like to know about one additional
game that may not quite maintain the professional demeanor that has been
present to this point.  This has been
designated as “The Call Girl Principle.” 
The principle says that the value of a service declines in direct
proportion to the amount of time it has been since you have received the
service.  Of course, this is why the call
girl always wants to be paid in advance. 
Good negotiators always make sure that there are definite arrangements
made for how much they are going to receive and when they are going to receive
it.  Whenever possible, they receive it
in advance.  “You do what you are going
to do for me and then I will do what I am going to do for you.”  By this point, though, you will undoubtedly
be able to go the call girl principle one better.  Try it when you and your spouse are in the
lover’s dimension of your marriage.  What
is this advanced principle called?  You
guess it – simultaneous sex.  As with
many many things within family life, it is usually better to do it together
than to take turns.

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