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The 3 Most Common Negotiation Mistakes

By |January 13, 2015


  1. You don’t let “moments” happen
  2. You negotiate against yourself
  3. You don’t play “the short game”

#1 – You don’t let “moments” happen

How long is a moment? The Gallup Organization tells us a “moment” is three seconds long. If you can let this work for you it’s a great place to gain an edge in a negotiation or make a great discovery. Remember to never be so sure of what you want that you wouldn’t take something better.

Not taking advantage of moments and letting them happen is #1 on our list of The Most Common Mistakes. Avoiding this mistake is best done through the use of one of our Negotiation 9 skills, the effective pause. Don’t be the one to break the silence. Smile, keep calm and internally count to 10. Smile again if need be. Repeat as necessary. Give encouraging body-language feedback if you can.

In a negotiation exercise we were conducting for one of our favorite clients, one of the participants asked a brilliantly crafted calibrated question, and then before the counterpart could answer, he jumped back in and started talking. The student didn’t use an effective pause and let a “moment” pass him by. In the debrief afterwards the counterpart told him, “Thank goodness you interrupted and didn’t let me answer that question because you had us. If we had answered that question we would have revealed everything you needed to know.”

#2 – You negotiate against yourself

I’ve seen important business negotiation strategy sessions where people would discuss different “asks” and then one member or another would shoot the “ask” down by saying “We can’t ask for that, they’ll never agree”. The idea gets shot down like a wounded duck! What a shame. The team was just negotiating with themselves and they lost! Look how easy they made it for the other side.

If you’re worried about bringing something up, what your gut instincts are most likely telling you is that you should be conscious of delivering it gently, but please don’t let that inner voice convince you to not bring it up. You can actually gain an edge by accumulating no’s. If gently done, it can build up a reciprocity debt in reverse, a “You said ‘no’ to everything else – at least give me that” approach. The other possibility is that they might say yes! Every unasked request meets with defeat, or as the great hockey legend Wayne Gretzky said “I’ve missed 100% of the shots I haven’t taken”.

“I’m sorry” and nothing more is a great intro for an “ask” you feel may be tenuous. Be gentle, AND be fearless.

#3 – You don’t play the short game

In golf, great golfers focus on getting close to the hole before they sink the putt. If you are always trying to get a full commitment from the other side, they will sense it and have their guard up. Make incremental progress in each interaction. Work on getting closer to the goal as opposed to trying to “always be closing”. Having an “always be closing” approach is a sure way to condition your counterpart to let your calls go to voicemail instead of picking up the phone when you call. That shortly leads to unresponsiveness via phone and email. If you and your counterparts are always making progress in each interaction what you’re teaching them is not that you’re always trying to get them to give in, but instead that every interaction with you is valuable. Not a bad reputation to have.

Cut down on these bad habits and make rain!

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