A Checklist For Making Concessions In A Negotiation

To get the most out of concessions, you're going to need a checklist
To get the most out of concessions, you’re going to need a checklist
Image Credit: AJ Cann

Everyone starts a negotiation with a goal in mind of what they’d like to be able to get out of the negotiation no matter what negotiation styles or negotiating techniques are involved. As the negotiation proceeds, both sides engage in give and take where they both make and receive concessions. As the negotiation proceeds forward, the eventual deal that both sides will be able to live with starts to take shape. Its the concessions that we end up making during the negotiation that control how the negotiation goes.

Your Negotiation Concession Checklist

We need to appreciate concessions for what they are: valuable things. These valuable things need to be treated with care and not just carelessly given away to the other side. In fact, every time that you find yourself making a concession to the other side you need to make sure that they are providing you with one in return.

Concessions can be funny things. You, of course, never want to give one away for free. However, at the same time you don’t want to make concessions to the other side too early in a negotiation. They’ll feel as though they didn’t have to work too hard to get the concession and it really won’t provide them with very much satisfaction for getting it.

Something that negotiators who are just starting out often don’t realize is that how you go about making a concession is often just as important as what concession you make. What you want to have happen is for any concession that you make to draw both sides closer and move things along. However, poorly made concessions can actually drive both sides further apart. Additionally, if you do a poor job of making concessions, then the other side may interpret this as a sign of your weakness and it may serve to boost their aspiration levels to a place where they’re just going to end up being unhappy later on.

It turns out that the number of concessions that you’ve made to the other side really does matter. In the heat of a negotiation, the one thing that you most definitely don’t want to do is to lose track of how many concessions you’ve made to the other side. The more concessions that you’ve made, the more the other side “owes” you and you can use this as an effective form of bargaining leverage. When you consider how much is going on during a negotiation, you are going to struggle to keep a count of your concessions in your head. Instead, take the time and write down each and every concession made so that you’ll have an accurate record.

The reason that we make concessions during a negotiation is because we want to avoid the possibility of causing a deadlock. What this means is that each concession that we’re willing to make represents a little bit of our overall flexibility. When those concessions are all used up, we’ll have no flexibility left to use in order to move the negotiations towards the goal that we want to achieve. Keep in mind that every concession that you make should be moving you closer to the deal that you want to reach.

A lot of the time when we make a concession, we feel as though we’ve made a promise to the other side. We never want to be seen as a person who doesn’t live up to their promises and so we start to feel constrained to stick with a concession that we’ve made on a specific issue. What we’re forgetting in these circumstances is that the entire agreement is always much more important than any individual issue that we’ve made a concession on. When the negotiations are starting, you need to inform the other side that all concessions are to be considered to be tentative. You need to understand that your integrity won’t be questioned if you have to retreat from concessions that you made earlier on.

What All Of This Means For You

Making concessions is a fact of life when we are negotiating. By getting the concessions that we want from the other side of the table and by providing them with just enough concessions we can reach the deal that both sides are able to live with. What this means is that we need to be very careful with the concessions that we’re making in order to ensure that they are going to get us what we want.

We need to remember to never give a concession unless we’re going to receive one in return. How a concession is made is just as important as the type of concession that is being made. How many concessions you’ve made to the other side is an important bargaining point and so you should keep a written record of how many concessions you’ve made. The concessions that you’re willing to make control how flexible you are and so you don’t want to give away all of your concessions too early in a principled negotiation. Finally, just because you’ve made a concession doesn’t mean that you can’t take it back. The final outcome is what really matters and all concessions that you make should be considered to be tentative by the other side.

If there is one negotiating skill that will serve you well during your entire negotiating career, it’s the ability to correctly make concessions to the other side. Make sure that you know what you’re willing to agree to before your next negotiation starts and then keep a careful eye on what you’ve given away and what you still are willing to give.

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

Question For You: If during a negotiation you discover that you’ve made all of the concessions that you are willing to make, should you take back some of your concessions in order to keep the negotiations moving along?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

I can only speak for myself, but when I think about negotiating, I often think about taking. What can I get from the other side? What negotiation styles or negotiating techniques can I use to I talk them into giving up more concessions to me? However, it turns out that I (and a lot of other negotiators) just might have gotten this all wrong. Is it possible that successful negotiating is really all about giving? If this is true, then just exactly when should we be giving during a negotiation and what should we be giving?

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