1. Staying in the moment
It’s easy to prepare for a negotiation ahead of time. Staying in the moment and using The Black Swan Skills during it is another task altogether.
One of the most common failures people encounter in negotiations is that they forget everything they prepared for and revert back to what they’re comfortable with. Instead of using the Black Swan skills, they revert back to asking direct questions, or making it all about themselves and their agenda…instead of making it about the other side.
This is where self-awareness comes in. Do some self-Labeling to get yourself back in the seat. “It seems like I keep talking over her every time she brings that up.” Correct yourself and lean into the Black Swan skills.
Remember that it’s a process to use the skills. Try using a mix of Labels and Mirrors. Test out a Summary. If you feel yourself starting to panic, stay calm, stay in the moment, use Dynamic Silence, and trust the process.
2. Reacting to an Attack
Another common failure is when people react to an attack instead of responding.
Attacks usually come from three places:
- The other side is under a lot of pressure.
- The other person feels like you’re not listening to them or they’re not being understood.
- The other person is manipulating you.
So often people view attacks as the start of a fight instead of a knee-jerk reaction to inner or external pressures. That’s why it’s the most common time for things to fall apart and for people to forget to use the Black Swan skills.
Remember though, these skills are meant to shine during especially tough negotiations. If anything, you should be kicking them into overdrive when it gets tough.
It goes along with the first failure—not staying curious. Throw out a “Seems like you have a reason for saying that” to disarm the attack entirely.
3. Misusing Labels™
One of the things I’ve seen as a coach, and even struggled with when I first started, is misusing Labels™ as an opinion, a judgment, or to prove a point. You’ll Label™ something almost as an explanation, so that you can get them to admit something instead of provide more information.
That’s not a Label, that’s manipulation.
Back in my detective days, I was talking to a bad guy, he said he’d talked to some people before the incident and claimed he didn’t know who they were. My Label was: “It sounds like you knew they were from the government.”
I said it because he was obviously skirting issues and doing illegal things he didn’t want to admit—like already being approached by a federal agency—but it came across as sarcastic and imposing, not like Tactical Empathy™.
Another example would be if you’re selling something and you find yourself Labeling “It sounds like you can afford that.” Things like that aren’t effective observations of what the other side is showing you. Instead, they’re used to prove a point. (Or to prove your point I should say.)
Be careful of your Labels—are they true verbal observations meant to gain information or listen deeper? Or are they an opinion, judgment, or an assertion?
4. Forgetting that last impressions matter
Like the previous points, we can fail with the skills, we can fail to stay in our seat during an attack, but one of the most vital things we forget is that the last impression is the lasting impression.
We don’t always plan for a good last impression—and that’s a problem.
Whenever you find yourself in a negotiation, as you’re moving towards the end, put some thought into what your last impression will be. You want to leave on a good note—no matter how the negotiation or the deal looks.
Because you can’t predict the ultimate outcome. If the deal went away but you left on a positive note, that person could come back and do business with you at a later date, or give you a referral. Don’t underestimate the power of a good last impression.
How to avoid failing with the skills
The biggest culprit for common negotiation failures is simple: it’s a lack of daily practice.
When you don’t practice, you aren’t forming habits, and you’re not paving those neural pathways. You’re setting yourself up to revert back to old, ineffective habits. This always has a trickle-down effect: no practice leads to not staying curious, not staying curious leads to reacting to attacks, reacting to attacks makes the negotiation about you, when it’s about you you’re not collaborating, and so on.
By practicing frequently, you’re allowing the Black Swan skills to come naturally—in difficult and high-stakes conversations
In order to actually gain a skill, that skill must be practiced.