In Negotiating, Loose Lips Sink Ships

by drjim on December 18, 2015

During a negotiation you'll want you team to say as little as possible

During a negotiation you’ll want you team to say as little as possible
Image Credit: James Vaughan

Any negotiator knows that in a negotiation, information is power. The more information that you share with the other side of the table, the more power you are handing over to them. Just because you know this, does not necessarily mean that the rest of your team also understands it. As a negotiator, it’s your responsibility to make sure that your team doesn’t end up sharing more than they should with the other side.

Why Sharing Too Much Is A Bad Idea

If we can all agree that having more power is a good thing and giving power away to the other side during the course of a negotiation is a bad thing, then clearly keeping your mouth shut is something that you are going to want to work on. However, what we can often forget is that we’re not the only ones participating in a negotiation. We almost always have some support staff.

This is why it is your responsibility as a negotiator to work with your team before the negotiations start. What you are going to want to do is to tell them in the nicest way possible that they are to keep their mouths shut! There can be a lot of different types of people helping you out – accountants, lawyers, etc. No matter how important, or not, the person is, you are going to need to explain to them that if they open their mouth at the wrong time and blurt something out, it could derail what you are trying to accomplish during the negotiations.

You are going to want to work out an agreement to keep silent with everyone who will be on your team. Note that this does not just mean the important people. You’re going to need to sit down and identify everyone who will be participating so that you can make sure that nothing slips out unintentionally. The people on your team won’t be trying to cause you problems; however, it’s all to easy for things to inadvertently slip out.

What You Need To Do In Order To Keep Things Under Wraps

This doesn’t mean that you don’t want them to talk at all during a negotiation. Instead, what you want them to do is to speak very carefully. This means that you’ll want to agree with them on very specific statements that they can make. Additionally, you’ll want to coordinate with them how they answer questions that you’ll be asking them during the negotiation.

All negotiators have a certain set of things that they are good at. Likewise, we also have things that can be considered to be our weaknesses. The reason that we invite other people to come to a negotiation with us is so that they can help us to cover up our weaknesses while at the same time not diminishing our negotiating power.

If the other side doesn’t take the time to coach their staff to not reveal things to you, you’ll need to keep your ears open for pieces of information that you may not have. If they reveal a defect in something to you, you’ll need to take the time to work this new knowledge into your negotiations.

What All Of This Means For You

In every negotiation, knowledge is power and we’d all like to have as much power as possible. As negotiators we all know that we need to be very careful when we are dealing with the other side of the table. They will always be on the lookout for us to say something that will reveal things that we didn’t mean to share with them. However, it turns out that the members of our team might do the same thing.

Our team members won’t mean to undermine our negotiating position. However, in an attempt to be helpful they may end up spilling the beans. It is our responsibility to make sure that this does not happen. This means that before the negotiation starts, it’s going to be your responsibility to coach your team to keep their mouths shut unless you ask them a specific question.

Guarding your information during a negotiation is the responsibility of every negotiator. Even if we do a good job of it, we have to take steps to ensure that every member of our team understands that they need to help keep our secrets safe. Taking the time to review this topic with the team before a negotiation starts will go a long way in keeping negotiating power in your hands.

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

Question For You: If someone on your teams slips up and says something that they should not have, what should you do?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

As negotiators we need to always be on guard. We need to expect that the other side of the table will be using a wide variety of negotiation styles and negotiating techniques in order to get the deal that they want. What this means for you is that when the bogey man shows up in your next negotiation, you need to be able to recognize him and be prepared to deal with his arrival.

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