Negotiators Know That Everything Falls Apart At The End

by drjim on February 1, 2013

Just when you think that you're there, you encounter a drop off…

Just when you think that you’re there, you encounter a drop off…
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When is a negotiation over? Is it when you have a verbal agreement with the other side of the table on all of the major issues? Probably not. In most cases, we don’t consider a negotiation to be complete until we’ve been able to write down just exactly what we’ve both agreed to and both sides accept what has been written down. However, this is exactly when issues start to show up and everything seems to start to fall apart…

Why Do Negotiations Fall Apart At The End?

I almost hate to say this, but it can be easy to agree to things during a negotiation. Maybe you are using some magical negotiation styles or negotiating techniques and in the heat of the moment, when all of the alternatives have been presented, either side of the table may realize that what is being presented is the way that they have to go.

However, things can start to fall apart when the end of the negotiation is reached and all of those things that we’ve agreed to during the negotiations start to get written down When we see them sitting there staring back us in harsh black and white, all of a sudden what once seemed like a good idea may no longer seem like such a good move.

There are a lot of different reasons why we run into such troubles when we reach the end of a negotiation. Chief among these is the simple fact that during the actual negotiations we didn’t cover a lot of the little details and the first time that they are showing up is in the written agreement that is coming out of the negotiations.

There are a wide range of issues that can trip up a negotiation at the end. These include things like financial agreements, dates that things should be done, and when things should be delivered (and where they need to be delivered to).

What Do Negotiators Need To Do At The End Off A Negotiation?

As a negotiator, you are responsible for making sure that each negotiation that you are involved in comes to a successful conclusion. This means that you need to anticipate and accept the inevitable falling apart that will happen at the end of each negotiation.

I’d like to be able to tell you that there is some action that you can take in order to prevent this falling apart event from happening. The bad news is that you can’t. It seems to be a natural part of almost every negotiation.

Instead of spending your time trying to prevent it from happening, I would suggest that you spend your time anticipating its arrival. What this means is that since you know that things are going to go badly once both sides of the table start to review the written final agreement, you need to be prepared to deal with it.

When things start to fall apart, it can be very easy for one or both sides of the negotiations to start to become disillusioned with their chances for reaching a successful agreement. That’s when you need to step in.

As a negotiator you need to realize how this story plays out. Yes, at the end of almost every negotiation, things tend to go rather badly. However, you also have to have the realization that that more often than not, you’ll be able to get through these issues and you’ll end up with an agreement that is acceptable to both sides of the table.

What Does All Of This Mean For You?

Negotiations can take on a life of their own. Over and over again I’ve seen negotiations that appeared to be going well start to run into problems just as the negotiations were being wrapped up. What seemed to be so close now seems to be too far away.

Negotiators need to understand that this is a natural occurrence and that it will be a part of almost every negotiation. By anticipating that things will fall apart at the end of the negotiation when both sides see what they’ve agreed to written down for the first time, you can prepare for it. When the chips are down and everyone else starts to despair that an agreement is going to be reached, you have the ability to step in and reassure everyone that things will work out.

Almost always, the issues that temporarily seemed to be a big deal will more often than not fade away quickly as they get discussed. Given enough time, both sides of the table will eventually get used to seeing their agreements on paper before them. That’s when you know that the principled negotiation was successful and you’ve got yourself a deal!

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

Question For You: Do you think that there is anything that you can do to minimize the amount of falling apart that happens?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

Can I tell you something? Can you keep a secret? Contacts are boring. Not only are they that, but generally speaking they are both long and boring. That’s why it can be very easy for negotiators to not pay a great deal of attention to exactly what is in a contact and it turns out doing so could be a serious mistake…!

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