Stop Saying Dumb Things During Your Negotiations!

Keeping your mouth shut can help you do better in a negotiation
Keeping your mouth shut can help you do better in a negotiation

Image Credit: wild trees

A lot of times when we look back over a negotiation that we’ve participated in, we’ll try to determine where things went wrong. How did a negotiation that was supposed to be simple suddenly become so hard? We might want to think that the negotiation styles and negotiating techniques that the other side put them in a more powerful position; however, more often than not we’d be wrong. Instead, what probably happened was at some point in time we said something dumb.

How Dumb Things Get Said

So there you are in your next negotiation. You’ve got a strategy for how you want to get the other side to agree to your proposal and you are actively pursuing it. However, all of a sudden, out of the blue they bring up a fact about your company that you (1) didn’t want them to know about and (2) that harms what you were trying to accomplish in this negotiation. What the heck is going on here?

Sadly, there is actually a fairly simple explanation about what has just happened. All too often, you’ve opened your mouth and said something that you really should not have said. This can happen at any point in time. In fact, it could have happened weeks before the negotiation even started. You told the other side something that ended up weakening your position in the negotiation.

What makes this even worse is that perhaps you didn’t say something that you should not have. Nope, instead it was somebody on your team. Let’s face it, this negotiation is not the only communication that is occurring between your two companies. Sales people talk to each other. Engineers talk to each other. You get my drift. It is entirely possible that someone on your team let something slip during one of their conversations that has now come back to haunt you during this negotiation.

How To Both Stop And Use Dumb Things

I’d like to be able to tell you that there is some clever trick that you can do that will completely stop both you and your team from leaking important information to the other side before or during a negotiation. However, the simple truth is that there is no magic cure for this problem. Instead, what you are going to have to do is to learn when to shut up. How hard can that be to do?

When we go into a negotiation, we want to know as much about the other side of the table and their organization as we possibly can. At the same time, we want to do everything in our power to make sure that the other side knows as little about both us and our organization. When we are involved in a negotiation, dumb remarks from anyone on our side end up reducing our negotiating power simply because they provide information to the other side that we really don’t want them to have.

One important point to remember when it comes to not making dumb mistakes and providing the other side with too much information has to do with the dreaded cost breakdown. If the other side asks you to provide them with a cost breakdown then it is pretty clear that they are trying to find out where you have built profit into your proposal so that they can remove it. What this means for you is in order to not make a dumb mistake and provide too much information to the other side, you never want to provide a cost breakdown unless you are in a situation where it is required by law.

What All Of This Means For You

We all like to think of ourselves as being smart negotiators. For that matter, we’d also like to think about all of the people who are on our negotiating team as being smart about negotiating also. However, all too often, during a principled negotiation the other side can reveal that they are aware of a piece of information about us that we really wish that they didn’t know. What went wrong here?

The answer is that somebody made a dumb mistake. It may have been you when you were talking with the other side at some point in time or it could have been a salesperson, an engineer, or just about anyone else who works for your company. What we need to understand is that making a dumb mistake like this doesn’t actually have to happen during the negotiation, it could have happened weeks or months before the negotiation started. What we need to learn to do is to keep our mouths shut. In fact, everyone on our team needs to learn to do this. We especially don’t want to provide the other side with too much information if they ask us for a cost breakdown. You should never provide this.

Power is everything when it comes to negotiating and we are the ones who are ultimately in control of how much power we either have or don’t have. If we are not careful and we tell the other side too much about our current situation or about our company, then we may have just given a great deal of power to them. When negotiating, remember to keep your mouth shut as much as you can and tell the rest of your team to do the same thing!

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

Question For You: If you do slip up and tell the other side too much, what can you do to minimize the impact of this mistake?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

When we think about getting ready for our next negotiation, what do we really spend our time thinking about? We probably review all of the negotiation styles and negotiating techniques that we plan on using and that we expect the other side to try to use against us. Hopefully we’ll also spend some time taking a close look at the issues that will be discussed so that we can go in fully understanding what will be negotiated. However, perhaps there is one area that we are overlooking. Do we spend enough time thinking about what the other side wants to get out of this negotiation?

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