In A Negotiation You Always Want To Do More Work Than The Other Side

More work for you means a better deal for you in the end
More work for you means a better deal for you in the end
Image Credit: Neil

Ok, so I’m willing to admit it – I’m lazy. If I can get someone else to do work for me, more often than not I’ll ask them to do it. The problem with being this way is that I spend a great deal of my time negotiating. It turns out that when you are a negotiator, this “Tom Sawer’s white picket fence” technique where you get others to do your work really is not what you want. You really want to be the one who is doing all of the work!

Negotiations Involve A Lot Of Work

In every negotiation there are a lot of different moving parts. During the negotiations, issues will be put on the table, they will be discussed, an agreement will be reached by both sides or the issue will be tabled for now. In a negotiation that has a lot of different and interconnected issues, where things currently stand can become confusing very quickly.

The possibility of both sides of the table becoming confused on where things currently stand is a prime motivator for various sets of negotiation documents to be created. There is always the question about who is going to create these documents – somebody has to, but nobody wants to because of the effort that is involved. During a negotiation when you encounter a situation where documentation is required, you need to be the one who puts your hand up and says that you’ll pull it together.

No, I’m not going to be able to tell you that going to the effort of creating the various forms and documents that are needed in a negotiation is going to be easy – it’s not. In fact it will end up taking up a lot of your valuable time. However, when you do this, something magical will happen in your negotiations. The forms and documents that you create will be given what is called an air of legitimacy”.

You Need To Be The Person Who Is Doing The Work

During any negotiation you are always worrying about what negotiation styles or negotiating techniques you need to be using next. Adding the creation of a variety of negotiating documents to your list of things that you are responsible for doing during the negotiations won’t help manage your workload.

However a powerful reason for you to want to prepare the documents that will be used in your negotiation is because it will put you in control. What this means is that you’ll be able to decide what goes into a form or a documents and what gets left out. Once again, the aura of legitimacy that will surround the documents that you create means that when you present them to the other side, more often than not they’ll just accept them as is


If you feel the need to motivate the other side to accept your forms and documents just a little bit more, then you can contribute to their air of legitimacy. The way that you can do this is by telling the other side that the documents that you are presenting to them are virtually the same documents that you presented in a different negotiation that you were involved in. The belief that the documents worked then will increase the likelihood that they’ll be accepted for use in your negotiations now.

What All Of This Means For You

Every principled negotiation involves a lot of work. We all have a number of different things going on and if we can pull it off, we’d love to find ways to get the other side to do a lot of the busy work associated with a negotiation for us. However, we need to be careful and not do this – we need to do all of the work.

During a negotiation in order to keep track of where things are going, there are a number of documents that have to be created. Prior to the negotiations a letter of intent (LOI) can be created, during the negotiation a memo of understanding (MOU) can be created, etc. You always want to be the person who volunteers to create these documents. When you show up with your own forms, you create an air of legitimacy around what you are doing and the other side will be inclined to just accept the forms that you present them with.

In any negotiation our goal is to be able to reach an agreement with the other side that will meet the needs of our firm. In order to make this happen quicker and to make the results more like what we want them to be, we need to be willing to take on more of the workload of preparing the documents and the forms that the negotiation will require. By doing this we bring an air of legitimacy to what we’ve created and that allows us to get the other side to sign on the dotted line much easier.

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

Question For You: What should you do if you present the other side with a form and then they want to make a change to it?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

More than one negotiation that I’ve been involved in I’ve found myself pushed into a corner. There were a lot of different reasons for how this had happened: I was dealing with a sole supplier, I was operating under a very tight deadline, they were better at using negotiation styles and negotiating techniques, etc. I can remember the feeling of helplessness that I felt in each of these situations. What I needed at that moment in time was some help. Could it be that my company’s big book of policies may have held the answer that I was looking for?