Do You Make Mistakes When Negotiating?

It turns out that we all make the same mistakes
It turns out that we all make the same mistakes
Image Credit: My Sideways World

I for one would like to be able to say that I don’t make mistakes when negotiating. However, as we all know, that’s not the case. However, it turns out that when we do make mistakes, all too often we end up making the same mistakes. The good news is that if we can become aware of the mistakes that we are making, then we can start to take steps to overcome them. The end result of making this effort should be that we are able to reach better deals.

The Problem With Negotiating Mistakes

Let’s face it – sometimes our negotiation mistakes are pretty glaring. We do things like accidentally revealing our bottom line, criticizing the other party when patience was warranted, or getting our numbers mixed up. More often, though, our negotiation mistakes can be invisible. We might get a perfectly good deal but we may be unaware that we could have gotten a better one if we hadn’t succumbed to common errors and traps. It turns out that there are five common negotiation mistakes that we make most often and there are things that we can do in order to avoid making them.

The Mistakes That We Make When Negotiating

The first mistake that we make when we are negotiating is that we fail to thoroughly prepare to negotiate. What we are doing is rushing into a negotiation without thoroughly preparing. We may think we’ve prepared thoroughly if we have strong opinions about what we want to get out of the deal, but that’s far from sufficient. Wise negotiators understand the importance of taking ample time to analyze several aspects of any negotiation carefully. We need to start by thinking about our best alternative to a negotiated agreement, or BATNA. The BATNA is the best course of action available to us if we can’t reach agreement in our negotiation. It is also important to calculate our reservation value, or our walkaway point, and to try to estimate the other party’s BATNA. All of these calculations will help us make more rational decisions during our next negotiation.

It can be all too easy for us to focus on competing rather than collaborating. We may be fearful of being taken advantage of, and we then make ambitious, even unreasonable demands and resort to threats and other coercive tactics to try to get our way. For a more effective negotiation, we need to focus on creating and claiming value. When we take time to build both rapport and trust, both sides will feel more comfortable sharing their underlying interests in the negotiation. This knowledge will allow us to identify potential tradeoffs: if there’s an issue we don’t feel strongly about, we might be willing to concede in exchange for a concession on an issue we value greatly. We need to recognize that we’ll get more by looking for win-win solutions.

It can be all too easy during a negotiation for us to fall back on cognitive shortcuts. During a negotiation, we all rely on cognitive shortcuts, particularly if we’re unprepared and short on time, psychologists have found. All too often we tend to be overconfident of our odds of getting our way. During a negotiation we pay more attention to information that is most discussed than to less flashy information that might have a bigger impact on our satisfaction. The way that we can improve our negotiation skills and reduce the effects of these biases is by preparing thoroughly and taking ample time to negotiate.

If we are not careful, we can let our emotions get the best of us. We need to understand that negotiators are susceptible to emotional biases that can prevent us from doing our best. Our emotions and those of the other side can provide us with valuable information about how the negotiation is going. The problem is that strong emotions can also keep us from making rational decisions. These can then lead to us making negotiation mistakes. Negotiators often don’t understand how their emotions affect their negotiations. We can allow our anger to lead us to make overly risky choices. Likewise, sadness can lead us to overpay in a negotiation. When our negotiations get heated, what you need to do is to try taking a break to let everyone cool down. Afterwards, when you regroup, take time to talk about what happened, giving everyone a chance to air their concerns.

The last mistake that we make may be the most serious: we tend to take ethical shortcuts. It’s easy for us to assume that only truly ruthless people behave unethically in negotiation. The reality is that most people are willing to cheat now and then in negotiation and other realms if they have a financial incentive to do so and think they won’t be caught. In these situations, we find ways to justify such behavior, whether by telling ourselves that the other side won’t feel the loss or by denying that we’ve done anything wrong in the first place. It’s important for us to stay attuned to ethical pitfalls in our negotiations and we need to avoid letting ourselves off the hook for even seemingly minor infractions that end up going against our moral code.

What All Of This Means For You

Every negotiator wants to be a part of a perfect negotiation. However, all too often our negotiations run into problems and can even grind to a halt. Clearly most, if not all, of our negotiations are not perfect. One of the reasons that they may not be perfect is because as negotiators we tend to make mistakes. In fact, we often make the same mistakes over and over again. Understanding what these mistakes are and how to deal with them is the key to getting rid of them.

When we prepare to enter into a negotiation, we should arrive prepared. However, all too often we don’t. In order to reach a deal with the other side we have to find ways to collaborate with them. Our sense of competition can often get in the way of this. If we don’t prepare for a negotiation we may end up taking the easy way out and relying on cognitive shortcuts. Emotions are powerful things but they can get in our way when we are negotiating. Ethics guide us and if we don’t follow them then we may end up somewhere where we really don’t want to be.

The key to being a successful negotiator is to be willing to always be getting better. Since we all know that we are not perfect right now, we need to be able to understand what we are doing wrong. Committing the same mistakes over and over again will prevent us from being able to get the deals that we are seeking. If we can become aware of the mistakes that we make and start to make changes, then perhaps we can get that much closer to having the perfect negotiation.

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

Question For You: How can a negotiator discover what mistakes they make during a negotiation?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

I think that we all realize that when we go into a negotiation, we are going to have to make some concessions to the other side. We’d all like the number and the size of those concessions to be as small as possible so that we can emerge from the negotiations feeling as though we got what we wanted without giving up too much. However, there’s an interesting negotiating strategy that says that if we go into a negotiation planning on making specific concessions, then we just might be able to get the deal that we’re looking for. What do these types of concessions look like?