How To Not Be A Pushover In Your Next Negotiation

by drjim on February 20, 2015

In a negotiation, you want to be flexible but not be a pushover

In a negotiation, you want to be flexible but not be a pushover
Image Credit: ron_n_beth

In order to reach a deal with the other side of the table, you are going to have to be flexible. However, this brings up the interesting question: just exactly how flexible are you going to have to be? The one thing that you don’t want to allow to happen is for the other side to start to view you as being a pushover no matter what negotiation styles or negotiating techniques are being used. Hmm, looks like we’ve got a bit of a challenge here…

How To Be Flexible

When we exercise, the experts tell us that we need to make sure that we are flexible so that we don’t end up injuring ourselves. When we negotiate the same advice applies – you need to be flexible so that you don’t end up harming your ability to reach the deal that you are seeking.

The key here is to understand just exactly what we mean by saying that we want to be flexible during a negotiation. What this comes down to is simply that we don’t want to get hung up on issues that really should not be that big of a deal – the small points. What this means for you is that you’re going to want to do your homework before the negotiations begin and you are going to want to go in knowing what the small points are and what big points are.

You’re going to need to be willing to make concessions to the other side when it comes to the small points. In fact, if you can control the agenda for the meeting, you’re going to want to arrange things so that the small points are covered first. This will allow you to build up good will with the other side as you give in on the initial set of small points.

How To NOT Be A Pushover

Things will change when you start to encounter the major issues of the negotiations. The other side might be thinking that you’ll be willing to give in on these points also, but if so then they’re going to be in for a big surprise. This is going to be where you dig your heels in and push back.

What you are going to want to point out to the other side is that you’ve already made a number of concessions to them. Now it’s going to be their turn to make some concessions on the big items to you. You might be surprised at just how effective this technique can be.

The flexibility that you showed at the beginning of the negotiations starts to pay off for you at this point in the negotiations. However, you’re not done yet. With all of these issues and their resolutions flying around, you are going to have to take care to keep track of who has agreed to what. This will help you when it comes time to ask the other side to make a concession to you. Additionally, your notes will help you verify the details of the deal that has been worked out by both sides when everything is done.

What All Of This Means For You

We always have to keep in mind what the goal of any principled negotiation that we start is to reach a deal with the other side that we can live with. In order to make that happen, we need to be flexible. However, if this goes too far, the other side might start to see us as being a pushover. We need to make sure that this doesn’t happen.

The way to avoid being seen as a pushover is to take control of the negotiations. Set up the agenda so that small issues are discussed first and give in on those. When the big issues come up, point out that you’ve already made concessions and ask the other side to now do the same. Make sure that you keep track of who has agreed to what.

Clearly this negotiating stuff requires a fair amount of pre-planning. If you go into your next negotiation with a clear plan for how you are going to get the deal that you want, then you’ll be that much closer to being successful. Use your flexibility to get what you want but don’t be a pushover!

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

Question For You: If the other side starts to treat you like you are a pushover, what steps can you take?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

A question that I am often asked by negotiators who are just starting out is what they should be concentrating on during a negotiation. Let’s face it, each negotiation that we are involved in consists of a lot of different moving parts and if you don’t know where your focus should be, your attention will end up being everywhere and nowhere at the same time. Where should your attention be?

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