How We View The Other Side Just Might Determine The Kind Of Deal We Reach

How we view the other side may shape how we negotiate with them
How we view the other side may shape how we negotiate with them
Image Credit: Kevin Dooley

When we start a negotiation, hopefully we all know what we’d like to get out of the negotiation. However, as we size up the other side of the table, there is a good chance that we may be making a crucial mistake. We may be making assumptions about them based on their appearance or how they act that are untrue. If we do this, then our chances of getting the deal that we want are at risk. What can we do to make sure that we evaluate the other side correctly?

The Keys To Not Making A Mistake In A Negotiation

One of the first things that any negotiator needs to learn is to not make unfounded assumptions about who they are negotiating with. It can be all too easy to pigeonhole or stereotype the person who is sitting across the table from us. What we need to realize is that this may be exactly what they want us to do and therefore it is part of their negotiation styles or negotiating techniques.

If you don’t want to make a mistake in your next negotiation, then you are going to have to get creative. Yes, there is a set of stated needs that were used to set up the negotiating session. However, it’s your job to probe the other side in order to go deeper and discover what the other side’s underlying needs and interests are. Even as you come to understand what these are, you’ll need to make sure that you stay focused on your goal for the negotiations. It can be all too easy to allow yourself to become sidetracked and ultimately emotionally involved in something that really does not matter.

Something that has sidetracked me more than once during a negotiation is when during the course of the negotiation two different alternatives show up. these alternatives can show up either at roughly the same time in the negotiations or they can show up at different times in relation to the same issue that is being negotiated. When this happens, the contrast between the two alternatives can serve to make one of them appear to be more attractive than the other. You need to be careful in this situation because it may turn out that neither alternative is going to help you to reach your goal.

It’s All About The Ultimate Goal

The reason that it’s so important that we not make incorrect assumptions about who we are negotiating with is because if we’re not careful, we can end up missing achieving the goal that we have for this negotiation. Somewhat surprisingly we can run into the biggest problems if we like the other side of the table. If we find ourselves identifying with the other side, or even worse, liking them then what can happen is that we find ourselves feeling disposed to saying “yes” to their requests.

Another problem that we can run into occurs when the other side does us a favor or when they provide us with something. When this is done, it causes something to happen inside of us and we want to repay the favor. What this means is that you are going to want to reciprocate. Don’t do this! What you need to do is to view the negotiation that you are engaged in as being a form of a problem solving process. This means that during the negotiation, you’re going to work with the other side in order to share what your preferences are. Having done this, you are then going to hope that a mutually beneficial exchange can ultimately be made with the other side.

In the end, a negotiation ultimately comes down to two things: how and what. You know what you want and the other side does also. Now the big question is how you are going to get what you want. During a negotiation, you can’t be rigid in your style. You need to be flexible in your style (basically the how) while at the same time making sure that you remain focused on what your goal for the negotiation is (the what).

What All Of This Means For You

We always need to go into a principled negotiation with our eyes wide open. It can be all too easy to look at the person sitting on the other side of the table and immediately write them off based on their look, their manner, or their experience. We need to be very careful because this can be a big mistake.

We need to understand that it’s a mistake to stereotype the person that we’ll be negotiating with. As the negotiation proceeds, we need to take the time to try to uncover what the other side’s unstated goals for the negotiation are. We need to be careful to stay true to our goals and not allow ourselves to get sidetracked on things that in the end really don’t matter. We have to be especially careful if we like the person on the other side of the table because we may end up saying “yes” too easily. We also have to be careful if they do a favor for us because by doing so, they are going to create a desire in us to do the same for them. We have to remember that negotiating is a problem-solving process, this means we need to keep our focus on both the how and the what.

Ultimately all of this comes down to making sure that you keep an open mind. As negotiators, we need to realize that if we find ourselves viewing someone in a particular way, then there is a good chance that that is how they wanted us to view them. When you start your next negotiation, take your time, keep an open mind, and you just might be surprised with the type of deal that you end up walking away with.

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

Question For You: If you find yourself stereotyping the other side of the table, how do you think that you can “undo” this thinking?

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

When we enter into a negotiation we need to know what we would like to get out of the negotiation. What this means is that we need to have objectives. Our objectives can come from many different places – ourselves, our boss, or another stakeholder. What’s important is that our objectives will drive the type of deal that we want to get out of the negotiations. You always have to know what your objectives in a negotiation are…