In a negotiation, you want to be flexible but not be a pushover

In a negotiation, you want to be flexible but not be a pushover
Image Credit: ron_n_beth

In order to reach a deal with the other side of the table, you are going to have to be flexible. However, this brings up the interesting question: just exactly how flexible are you going to have to be? The one thing that you don’t want to allow to happen is for the other side to start to view you as being a pushover no matter what negotiation styles or negotiating techniques are being used. Hmm, looks like we’ve got a bit of a challenge here…

How To Be Flexible

When we exercise, the experts tell us that we need to make sure that we are flexible so that we don’t end up injuring ourselves. When we negotiate the same advice applies – you need to be flexible so that you don’t end up harming your ability to reach the deal that you are seeking.

The key here is to understand just exactly what we mean by saying that we want to be flexible during a negotiation. What this comes down to is simply that we don’t want to get hung up on issues that really should not be that big of a deal – the small points. What this means for you is that you’re going to want to do your homework before the negotiations begin and you are going to want to go in knowing what the small points are and what big points are.

You’re going to need to be willing to make concessions to the other side when it comes to the small points. In fact, if you can control the agenda for the meeting, you’re going to want to arrange things so that the small points are covered first. This will allow you to build up good will with the other side as you give in on the initial set of small points.

How To NOT Be A Pushover

Things will change when you start to encounter the major issues of the negotiations. The other side might be thinking that you’ll be willing to give in on these points also, but if so then they’re going to be in for a big surprise. This is going to be where you dig your heels in and push back.

What you are going to want to point out to the other side is that you’ve already made a number of concessions to them. Now it’s going to be their turn to make some concessions on the big items to you. You might be surprised at just how effective this technique can be.

The flexibility that you showed at the beginning of the negotiations starts to pay off for you at this point in the negotiations. However, you’re not done yet. With all of these issues and their resolutions flying around, you are going to have to take care to keep track of who has agreed to what. This will help you when it comes time to ask the other side to make a concession to you. Additionally, your notes will help you verify the details of the deal that has been worked out by both sides when everything is done.

What All Of This Means For You

We always have to keep in mind what the goal of any principled negotiation that we start is to reach a deal with the other side that we can live with. In order to make that happen, we need to be flexible. However, if this goes too far, the other side might start to see us as being a pushover. We need to make sure that this doesn’t happen.

The way to avoid being seen as a pushover is to take control of the negotiations. Set up the agenda so that small issues are discussed first and give in on those. When the big issues come up, point out that you’ve already made concessions and ask the other side to now do the same. Make sure that you keep track of who has agreed to what.

Clearly this negotiating stuff requires a fair amount of pre-planning. If you go into your next negotiation with a clear plan for how you are going to get the deal that you want, then you’ll be that much closer to being successful. Use your flexibility to get what you want but don’t be a pushover!

- Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Negotiating Skills™

Question For You: If the other side starts to treat you like you are a pushover, what steps can you take?

Click here to get automatic updates when The Accidental Negotiator Blog is updated.

P.S.: Free subscriptions to The Accidental Negotiator Newsletter are now available. Learn what you need to know to do the job. Subscribe now: Click Here!

What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

A question that I am often asked by negotiators who are just starting out is what they should be concentrating on during a negotiation. Let’s face it, each negotiation that we are involved in consists of a lot of different moving parts and if you don’t know where your focus should be, your attention will end up being everywhere and nowhere at the same time. Where should your attention be?

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When it comes to negotiating, how flexible are you?

When it comes to negotiating, how flexible are you?
Image Credit: dollen

Our goal when entering into a negotiation with anyone is to be able to walk away with the best deal possible. Just exactly how to get from the beginning of a negotiation to that deal no matter what negotiation styles or negotiating techniques are being used is what we don’t always understand. This is exactly where being flexible comes into play.

Is Flexibility A Bad Thing?

How do you want to be seen by the other side of the table during a negotiation? I’d be willing to bet that just like the rest of us, you’d like to be seen as one tough cookie. This goes double for women – we don’t want to show any hint of weakness or we fear that the other side won’t take us seriously

Unfortunately, what this kind of negotiating attitude can lead to is a great deal of inflexibility on our part. A big part of negotiating is both presenting and considering alternatives to what has already been discussed. If we are inflexible, then there is a very good chance that we are going to view being willing to consider an alternative as being a sign of weakness to the other side.

Just so that we can be clear here: this is a mistake. Yes, we do want the other side of the table to take us seriously and we don’t want them to think that they can walk all over us. However, we need to step back for a moment and remember what our real reason for being involved in the negotiation in the first place is: to get the best deal possible. This means that we do need to be willing to consider alternatives because that is what will probably lead us to the deal that we’re looking for.

How Flexibility Can Work To Your Benefit

If we can agree that being flexible is actually something that can work to your benefit during a negotiation, then the real question is going to be how best to use this negotiating skill. During every negotiation there are going to be conflicts. This is where your flexibility can help out.

When faced with a conflict, you are going to have to be willing to propose possible compromises. What this is going to show the other side is that you are open to working with them to finding ways to solve the problems that you are currently facing. Having the ability to do this will show the other side that you know what you are doing when it comes to this negotiating stuff.

Instead of viewing being flexible as making you weaker in a negotiation, you need to take an opposite approach and view inflexibility as making you weaker. Those negotiators who are inflexible will never be able to reach the kind of deals that they want. The inability to change will forever keep them from achieving the ultimate goal that we all have in each and every negotiation that we engage in.

What All Of This Means For You

When we are involved in a heated principled negotiation, it can all too easy to get caught up in focusing on the details of what is being negotiated. When this happens, we can lose sight of what is really important to us – getting the best deal possible.

All too often we desperately don’t want to be viewed by the other side of the table as being in any way “weak”. This can mean that we become inflexible and unwilling to consider new ideas during the negotiations. We need to realize that not being flexible is actually what makes us week. We need to be able to consider new ideas if we want to have any hope of being able to reach the best deal possible.

Our goal when we enter into our next negotiation must be to be as flexible as possible. We need to always have an open mind and be willing to consider new ideas and new ways of finding solutions. Find a way to be flexible and you’ll be able to create the deals that you want to be able to reach.

- Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Negotiating Skills™

Question For You: Do you think that it is possible to be too flexible in a negotiation?

Click here to get automatic updates when The Accidental Negotiator Blog is updated.

P.S.: Free subscriptions to The Accidental Negotiator Newsletter are now available. Learn what you need to know to do the job. Subscribe now: Click Here!

What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

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