Negotiating Is A Mental Game

The trick is to care – but not too much
The trick is to care – but not too much
Image Credit: Christian Schnettelker

When we are preparing to negotiate, we tend to focus on the things that we can see such as the negotiation styles and negotiating techniques that we’ll be using. However, it turns out that in order to be successful in a negotiation a great deal relies on what is going on inside of our heads as much as what is happening at the bargaining table. How can we master our thoughts in order to be successful negotiators?

It’s All About Caring

The concept of caring is not one that we normally associate with negotiating. Instead, we often like to take a more aggressive stance and try to figure out how we can get as much out of a negotiation as we possibly can. We tend to spend very little time trying to determine how the other side might be feeling, we want to focus on how we can get the deal that we want.

However, it turns out that this might be a mistake. Exclusively focusing on just what we want to get out of a negotiation may put us at a disadvantage during the negotiations. The experts tell us that there is a value in detaching ourselves from that thing that we want to get out of the negotiation. If we are too focused on getting one thing from the negotiations, then we’re probably not going to be able to end up with a good deal.

During a negotiation, you are going to want to be able to show the other side that you are devoid of desire for any one particular thing. You need to clearly communicate to them that you have a number of other options that are available to you. If you are able to show these behaviors, then you are going to be able to exert a great deal of leverage over the other side of the table.

You Have The Power

So much of how we feel about a negotiation has to do with power. Who has it, how much of it do they have, how did they get it, and how can we get more of it. However, more often than not, what we are not aware of is the simple fact that when we enter into a negotiation, more often than not we have more power than we may have thought that we did.

One of the reasons that we often feel as though we don’t have as much power as we really do is because we all suffer from a fear of trying. We believe that there is a very good chance that we are going to fail and so we don’t want to start because we think that we know how things are going to turn out. The real way of dealing with this issue to realize that if you have never suffered a setback while negotiating, then there is a very good chance that you have been setting your aim too low.

What holds us back during a negotiation? Simple, our minds. It’s what we are picturing in our heads that will hold us back during a negotiation. We have the bad habit of focusing on the negative things that could happen: failure (of course), our own faults, foibles, and our flaws. In order to become a more successful negotiator, what you are going to have to do is to find a way to overcome these artificial barriers that you have created. This is what is holding you back.

What All Of This Means For You

At the end of the day, negotiating is a mental game. It’s what is going on inside of our heads that will determine the type of deal that we’re going to be able to get at the bargaining table. In order to make sure that we’re able to get what we really want, we need to take the time to gain mastery over ourselves so that we can get what we want out of our next negotiation.

During a negotiation, we need to remember that it’s not all about us. We need to take the time to care about the other side in order to make sure that we understand how they are seeing the negotiations. However, we also need to learn how to detach ourselves from what we really want so that we can end up with a good deal. To get what we want out of a negotiation, we need to make sure that we have the power that we need. Often we won’t realize just how much power we have because of mental obstacles that we put in our way. We need to find ways to overcome these barriers.

As much as we like to focus on the individual skills that it takes to become a better negotiator it turns out that principled negotiation is primarily a mental game. What this means for us is that we need to take the time to get our thinking process aligned before we start our next negotiation if we want to be able to walk away with the deal that we are looking for.

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

Question For You: During a negotiation if you realize that it’s your own thoughts that are holding you back, what’s the correct first step in solving this problem?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

Every time we show up for a negotiation, we are bringing something along with us that we really should not be bringing and I’m not talking about negotiation styles or negotiating techniques. What is this you ask? Assumptions. For a wide variety of reasons, we’ve all come up with a list of assumptions about the other side of the table, who has power, and what we can and cannot do. It turns out that most (if not all) of these assumptions are wrong. Let’s take some time and look at them and figure out what we should NOT be bringing to our next negotiation.