Negotiators Need To Learn When To Bend Without Breaking

by drjim on January 24, 2014

You can get more out of a negotiation if you know how to bend

You can get more out of a negotiation if you know how to bend
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Hey hard-charging negotiator, when your next negotiation starts will you have a plan mapped out for how you are going to be able to get to a deal with the other side? If so, how committed to that plan are you going to be – are you going to follow that plan no matter what happens? If so, then there is a very good chance that you’ll walk away from your next negotiation without a deal.

The Key Is Flexibility

If any of us had magical psychic abilities, then we’d be able to look into the future before a negotiation started and we’d be able to see what path we’d need to have to take in order to be able to successfully reach a deal with the other side of the table. This would allow us to create a plan that would work each and every time. Bad news – we’re not psychic and we can’t create such a plan.

What this means for us is that any plan that we create for our next negotiation needs to be considered to be more of an outline than a plan. We need to acknowledge that things change during a negotiation and that there is no way that we can pre-anticipate everything before the negotiations start.

The key to being successful in a negotiation is to learn to be flexible. The phrase that best captures what you need to be able to do is “go with the flow”. The negotiation styles and negotiating techniques that you are using in your negotiation will need to be adjusted to match the issues that come up, the people who are involved, and the disagreement that arise.

Deal Maker = Good, Deal Breaker = Bad

In order to be successful at a negotiation, you first have to be invited to participate in the negotiation. This is only going to happen if your negotiating reputation is one that leads the other side to believe that they are going to be able to reach a deal by negotiating with you. This reputation is not something that you can create overnight, it is earned based on every negotiation that you’ve been involved in in the past.

The reputation that you want to have is as a negotiator who has the ability to make a deal happen. You don’t want to become known as a negotiator who is always breaking deals. This type of negotiator never wins a negotiation, they just find reasons why an agreement will never be reached.

One of the biggest obstacles to reaching a deal with the other side of the table all too often is our ego. We can get so wrapped up in a negotiation that when things come down to the wire and we are so very close to being able to reach a deal with the other side, our ego steps in and won’t allow us to make that one last concession because we feel that we’ve already given too much. We can easily lose track of the big picture when we only focus on the little details and when this happens, we can turn into a deal breaker.

What All Of This Means For You

The image of a tough negotiator that we often see on TV and in movies is a forceful person who has a plan to get what they want out of the negotiations and nothing is going to stop them from achieving their goal. It turns out that the real world is considerably different from this made-up world.

If you want to boost your chances of leaving your next negotiation with a deal, then you are going to have to learn to be flexible. Things happen during a principled negotiation that may require you to change your plans. Go with the flow and you’ll increase the probability that you’ll be successful. In order to be invited to participate in the negotiations in the first place you are going to have to make sure that you are always cultivating a reputation of being a deal maker, not a deal breaker. The other side will only be willing to invest time negotiating with you if they are reasonably confident that they’ll be able to reach a deal with you.

In our everyday lives we are flexible people simply by necessity – we know that we don’t control what goes on in the world and so we’ve learned to roll with the punches. Negotiations are no different. Work on becoming more flexible and you’ll increase the number of deals that you are able to successfully close.

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

Question For You: What do you think your flexibility breaking point is? When is the other side asking for too much?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

Ah trust. It’s one of the little things that allows us to interact with people every day – we assume that they will do what they promise to do and likewise the people that we interact with assume that we’ll keep our word. You would think that going into a negotiation, there would need to be some base level of trust in order for the thing to even start. Just how much you should trust the other side of the table is a question that far too many negotiators get wrong with disastrous results.

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