The Art Of Making “How” Concessions

Giving concessions creates a need in the person that you give them to
Giving concessions creates a need in the person that you give them to
Image Credit: Victor Bezrukov

In some negotiating circles, the word “concession” is a dirty word. It means to give in to the other side, to agree to do something that they want you to do. Those negotiators who believe in using their negotiation styles and negotiating techniques to achieve “winner takes all” don’t like this concept because they believe that it shows weakness on their part. Those of us who are a bit smarter realize that making concessions is what helps a negotiation move along and the secret to negotiating success is knowing when and how to make good concessions.

It’s All About Where You Are

Instead of talking about this issue of making concessions in general, how about if we instead pick a specific example and see if we can take a look at how you can make concessions work for you? In every negotiation there is one big question that has to be resolved before any negotiation can get started: just exactly where are we going to meet to negotiate?

There are, of course, three possible answers to this question: your place, their place, or some neutral 3rd party location. What’s interesting is that many negotiators always want the negotiations to occur at their location. However, what they don’t realize is that there are disadvantages to this: you lose the excuse of limited authority if your entire management organization is in the same building.

More often than not, the other side of the table will have a preference where they’d like to conduct the negotiations. Let us assume that you really don’t care that much where the negotiating takes place. In this situation, when they make a proposal for where the negotiations will take place, instead of telling them “ok”, you need to ask for some time to consider it. The next time that you talk, complain about the effort, the travel, the timing, and anything else that you can think of. Eventually, agree to the location that they’ve picked. You’ve just made a concession.

Resolving An Impasse

Because of the nature of negotiations, we often seem to reach a point where both sides of the table are unable to make any further progress in the discussions. The end result of this situation is that the negotiations break down and everyone walks away from the table. If you’re not careful, your negotiations could be over at this point in time.

However, a clever negotiator realizes that things are not done yet. In this case you need to ignore all of the negotiating experts who will tell you that if you contact the other side after this happens, you are showing weakness. Silly phrases like “The one who speaks first loses” have been created which really don’t have a lot of merit. Instead, you should reach out to the other side.

What you are going to want to tell them is that you feel at least a partial responsibility for the negotiations breaking down. You’ll want to make an offer to return to the negotiating table. When both sides return to the table, you’ll want to lay a new offer in front of them. This should be a new version of the last offer that they rejected. You only have to make minor changes to it. Change some wording and make the proposal look different from the last one. The other side will quickly realize what they are looking at; however, you’ll get credit for swallowing your pride and coming back to the table. They will understand that you’ve made a concession to them.

What All Of This Means For You

So why should you make all of these concessions to the other side? Simple, when you make a concession to them they will then find themselves in debt to you. This is a great position for you to be in. What it means will be that they will be looking for ways to pay you back. With a little luck this will lead to them making concessions on issues that you really care about.

During a principled negotiation, simple things like where the negotiations will be held need to be worked out. If you don’t have a strong opinion on where a negotiation should be held and the other side does, this opens the door to you making a concession and getting them to make one in return. The same can be said if the negotiations grind to a halt. If you make the first gesture to return to the table, the other side will find themselves owing you.

Concessions are how negotiations work. A smart negotiator needs to know what concessions he or she can make and the best way to get the most for what you give up. Take the time to plan the concessions that you’ll be willing to use in your next negotiation and you’ll be pleased with the outcome.

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

Question For You: Do you think that concessions should be a back-and-forth thing?

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

Negotiating is a tough job. Trying to determine how to start your next negotiation can be an even tougher job. There seems to be no limit to the number of different negotiation styles and negotiating techniques that we can use to start a negotiation. We can storm into the negotiating room, throw our things down on the table, and then demand of the other side “what’s your best price?” There are countless variations on this theme. However, if we want to walk away with the best deal for us, what’s the best way to start things off?