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3 Phrases You Need to Eliminate from Your Negotiations

By |May 02, 2016

Increase your communication success by eliminating these 3 bad communication habits that naturally trigger a negative human response. 


“Ignore human nature at your own peril” is one of our basic negotiation approaches.  It is also why our skills are so effective.  In any given situation people have a tendency to react instinctively simply because they are people.   When you are backed into a corner, especially when you have skin in the game, you are going to react based off of instinct.  People are emotionally driven.  If you can determine what emotion is driving them at a given time then their behavior becomes imminently predictable, which allows you to orient your communication approach.

Along with basic human nature instinct is developing poor communication habits.  I am not sure what exactly causes this, but it could be attributable to many things.  For example we hear, whether consciously or subconsciously, people we deem as role models for us communicating in a certain way.  Maybe we are unaware of our lack of EQ applied to a given situation. One factor I know to be true on a general scale is that we get lazy in our communication habits and we don’t even realize it. People who compete in competitive sports workout on a regular basis.  No matter how naturally gifted they are they would never show up to compete without having honed their skills for competition.  You may negotiate on a regular basis, but how often do you hone your skills.  This will sound harsh – constantly interacting with others doesn’t automatically mean you’re good.  What that means is you consistently show up to the game without practicing first.  Even if you don’t have time to set aside to hone your skills, how often do you make a list of things that made you smarter after a given interaction?  Well here are three bad communication habits we all develop at some point, if eliminated will improve our batting average.

Tell me more (Questions)

This one I think we get not only from seeing our superiors negotiate but also because this is a common way to start an interview or an interrogation on a witness stand.  If you interact based on the way you have seen someone more successful than you negotiate, ask yourself whether you have the ability to actually be more successful than him or her.  We listen to radio, news, and TV interviews all the time and one way interviewers get people to talk on a regular basis is by saying “Tell me/us more about X” or “Talk about X”.  We overlook the fact that most interviewees have been prepped on what they will talk about so they don’t freeze up on air.  As a society we tend to think that lawyers set the standard for negotiation, trial lawyers especially.  We forget that the negotiation process is not an interview or a chance to squeeze information out of someone on a witness stand.  Not only is “Tell me more about X” a command but it is closed ended.  One thing we can all agree on is negotiation is supposed to be a collaborative process.  While interviewers and lawyers train on a regular basis for their craft. Neither of them practice or have a responsibility to be collaborative.

Multiple Choice Questions

This one has a lot of projection bias factored into it.  When we think we really get someone’s issue or we feel as though we have dealt with this before, inadvertently we may throw out a question and give options for the answer.  For example – “What is the biggest challenge you face” “is it A” or “is it B”.  There are so many problems with this, the number one being that it greatly constricts your ability to find out  critical information you probably need whether to help your counterpart or, most importantly, to help yourself.  It also gives the person answering the question the option to not expand on an idea or topic.  They have officially satisfied your question by picking an answer, if there is more for you to know they most likely won’t be sharing because it simply isn’t necessary.


"I Understand"

This one is probably my biggest pet peeve, and to make it worse I even have to stop myself from doing it at times. “ I Understand” is an extremely lazy way to try to display actual understanding or cognitive empathy.  When we don’t want to take the time to fully vocalize the understanding we do have, we resort to this.  In actuality this phrase is probably more often used as a transition to, shut up and let me talk.  If you really think about it more often than not “I Understand” is followed by “But”, for example “I understand but listen to my point of view”.  In a case like this you might as well say “excuse me I’m going to interrupt you now”.  Plus, when was the last time someone said the words “I understand” and internally you said to yourself in a excited voice “wow! They really get me”.  Do yourself a favor and keep from triggering the sarcastic inner voice of your counterpart by never using this phrase.


There is no way to sprinkle some sort of magical communication dust on our counterpart that gets them to agree every time.  In fact some negotiations are better off not having an agreement at all.  “No Deal is always better than a Bad Deal”.  That said we may never bat .1000 or have a 100% completion percentage but we can improve our negotiation percentage from where it is now.  If we were to tell you that we could give you a 23% increase in your communication abilities it might be worth considering dropping these 3 phrases.  If you make $5K deals 3 times a week and improved each deal by $1,150, I bet chances are you could improve your yearly worth by roughly $180K a year.


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