Knowing some of the most common mistakes in negotiating will help you to be aware when they are encountered. Unfortunately, being aware of them will not always keep you from making them! Luckily, one of the best ways to become a top-notch negotiator is to make a few blunders and learn from them. Just like any other mistake, we do not always believe what others tell us; we have to suffer firsthand before we believe. Is the game completely over if you make one or more mistakes during negotiation? Not likely, if you know how to recover gracefully. If you make a big error, you might lose out on the deal, but if you allow yourself to learn from the situation, at least all will not be forsaken. In this article, we will discuss the most common mistakes made in negotiating and how to buffer the impact of those mistakes if you make one.We also will discuss some possible ways to turn around a deal gone bad stemming from a mistake that you, or someone on your team, made. Finally, if retrieving the deal is a completely lost cause, then you may still be able to leave the meeting with the respect of the other side and valuable lessons to carry with you into your next negotiation.
The Most Common Mistakes Negotiators Make
Experts in the field of negotiating vary considerably on what they believe to be the most common or compromising mistakes that can be made during this process. Some examples, however, come up across the board as mistakes that all negotiators should avoid. We will cover those few that you will surely want to be aware of. You can learn much more about this topic by perusing the suggested resources section of this article. Thousands of books on the subject of negotiating exist in the publishing market, and nearly every one contains a chapter on common mistakes to avoid. Without inundating yourself, pick a few books written by the negotiators you admire most and use their knowledge to your benefit.
Top Negotiating Mistakes to Avoid:
Rushing negotiations: This is the most common mistake made by negotiators, even those who are experienced in the art. Mistakes most often are made in haste and by those who are unprepared. If you are not ready to negotiate, tell the other party that you need more time. It makes no difference whether you are negotiating for a higher salary or a multimillion-dollar contract; if you walk in unprepared, you will not be in the best position to bargain for what you want, period. Even if the opposing side insists that the negotiations must be done before you are ready, you must be resolute in your request for more time to prepare. If the opponent refuses to allow you this time, then you may want to re-think negotiating with that particular individual or company at all. If you are told the other party will begin negotiations with someone else, do not be threatened by this. Tell the other party you are disappointed by that stance but have no choice but to relinquish your participation until you are ready. Chances are that the opponent will respect your decision, and if not, it is best to let the party go and seek another situation.
2. Cornering your opponent: Many negotiators, particularly those who are new to positions that provide them with some power, are under the impression that they have to play hardball with the other party. They falsely believe that this will make them appear powerful and strong. They want to leave their opponent no recourse but to accept their demands rather than providing a viable option or way out. The reality could not be further from the truth. It not only makes one appear strong but also knowledgeable and wise to offer other solutions. In the Asian culture, this way out or refusal to humiliate your opponent is called saving face. It is considered rude and barbaric in many cultures to not allow the other party this opportunity. Always allow your opponent another option; it will earn you an excellent reputation and you will avoid making unnecessary enemies. You also will keep your opponent from fighting you with all the resources available. Think of how you would behave if cornered. The natural inclination of most people, no matter what is being negotiated, is to fight and become hostile. If you offer alternatives, you are moving the opposition into a more agreeable mode of operation. In the world of business, earning allies is everything, contrary to movie portrayals of business people. The more people who think highly of you and the way you do business, the more business and respect you will earn.
Accepting or relinquishing position too quickly: The point of negotiating is often to accept some of the other party's terms or relinquish your position to an extent. This is the process of give and take and the basis for all good negotiations. However, accepting or relinquishing too quickly can be damaging to negotiations. If you agree too quickly to an offer made, you may be shortchanging yourself and the negative results can last for years if a contract is involved. Other parties will consider you too easy and may think of you as someone who is easily taken advantage of; or worse, they may become suspicious of your abilities and what you have to offer them. Likewise, if you give up some or all of your requirements too easily, you will appear weak, uninterested, or incompetent. Think about each item you accept and/or relinquish, do not simply agree unless you already have established that you were willing to part with or accept certain propositions beforehand. Be sure to have a clear idea of what is most important to you and what is least important so you are in a position to relinquish some demands without compromising too much.
Not bending or being closed-minded: Walking into negotiations with an attitude of stubbornness about what should transpire will shut you off to possibilities. The point of negotiations is to communicate and find solutions to problems or to find a mutually beneficial outcome. When an individual refuses to consider other options, we call this "stubborn negotiations." A good example of stubborn negotiating is when people sell their homes reluctantly. If the seller is motivated, he or she will be open to various offers or requests made by the buyer. If the seller is not really sure of the desire to sell, she or he will set a price and refuse to bend or negotiate with potential buyers. This attitude is not beneficial or effective for true negotiations. If your mind is completely set and unbending, then you are not ready to negotiate and should do so at another time if at all. Do not enter negotiations until you are sure you are willing to enter a give-and-take discussion rather than an all-or-nothing posture.
Showing desperation: You or your company may well be desperate for negotiations to go well and in your direction. You may have become fixated on the idea of having the situation you desire and are reluctant to walk away, no matter the cost. However, it is a huge mistake to allow the other party to see how anxious you are; if the other side senses this in you, that party will realize a clear advantage and most, though not all, will take advantage of your position and you will certainly lose out. Do not fall in love with having or desiring a particular outcome or you will relinquish your ability to be objective. A good example of this, again, is house acquisitions, only this time from a buyer's perspective. People fall in love with houses not worth the asking price all the time. The location, the size, or a certain feature or features will make the home irresistible and the prospective buyers become blind to all faults or problems; they lose their objectivity. If they allow the seller to see this desperate desire to have that particular home, the seller might insist on selling it "as is" and will not negotiate price, repairs, or changes, especially if there are multiple interested buyers.
For Any Mistake There Is But One Excellent Tactic for Recovery
Everyone loves an apology. Business executives are notoriously reluctant to admit fault; however, it is often the best way to show strength of character and earn trust.Think of the immense praise and respect won by Johnson & Johnson during the Tylenol scandal of the late 1980s. That situation still is used as a prime example of excellence in crisis management and used to teach proper business ethics to students in the 21st century. Why? Because the company took immediate responsibility, and that response is one that is prized by nearly everyone, even in the current business environment. Johnson & Johnson still is highly regarded because the company was wise enough to accept culpability and take immediate action to prevent further incidences from occurring.
This stance will serve you well in all aspects of business, particularly when you make a mistake during negotiations. Owning your error in a courageous and straightforward manner will win you the admiration of most involved. We are not suggesting that you grovel or debase yourself; there is a huge difference between humility and humiliation, and a little humility never hurt anyone. In many cases, this tactic, if honestly presented, will get things back on track and even save the negotiations. If things are beyond saving, then simply bow out gracefully and explain that you understand the other party's stance. You will ultimately leave a good impression upon the other party, which will benefit you in future negotiations.
It is hoped that some of the most common negotiating errors listed in this article will help you navigate the tricky waters of the bargaining table. Keep in mind that no matter how well you study the common mistakes experienced by those who have gone before you; you ultimately will make some of your own. Whether you made a small blunder or a whopper of a mess, for heaven's sake, learn from it! Even if the error you made costs you a huge account, or a prized position, mourn the loss, make your apologies if appropriate, and then remember what you did wrong so that you do not repeat the same error. Just keep moving forward and onward. There is not an executive alive that can honestly say that she or he has never made a mistake in business or in negotiating. Indeed, the most seasoned and successful have made their fair share of errors along the way; after all is said and done, that is the best advice to take with you from this article.
Using Trust, Human Behavior, and Psychology for Better Negotiations
The psychology of human behavior in business cannot and should not be underestimated. Ideals that most of us live by and cherish, such as trust, honesty, and integrity, still count, although it may often seem otherwise in the current business climate. Despite the plethora of scandals and bad behavior among the business elite in recent years, the majority of successful businesses operate ethically.
Human behavior is closely linked to psychology. Many successful business people have come to understand the power of psychology when it comes to business affairs. Never is this more applicable then when it deals with negotiation. Having a clear understanding of human nature, behavior, and psychology will prove to be a valuable asset in bringing about positive results in the bargaining process.
Of , you might very well be up against an opponent who is equally knowledgeable, in which case you may end up in a stalemate in which no one is giving anything away. However, even when up against an opponent who is schooled in the nuances of human behavior, some small advantage might be obtained from your due diligence and alert attention. In addition to watching the other side, you also should be aware of what you and/or your colleagues are giving away by your reactions and actions.
Building Relationships and Bonds
Like any other relationship, the associations and contacts we make in the business world are based on a formation of trust and mutual benefit. Negotiating can be an opportunity to strengthen these associations. Alternatively, they can lead to severed ties, lost accounts, and lost allies. The way you conduct yourself in business and in negotiating will reflect to others what kind of person you are and help them decide if you are ultimately someone they want to continue doing business with or someone they want to avoid. Likewise, you will begin to know better whom to trust and whom to steer clear of.
Keep in mind that whenever you enter negotiations, you are dealing with human beings. While "business is business," as the saying goes,more importantly, people are people. If you unnecessarily cause harm, people will remember it and let others know about it. Likewise, if you behave in an ethical manner, that also will be remembered and mentioned. Whether in your business or personal life, people will respond well to honesty and integrity; likewise, they will withdraw or retaliate if mistreated or treated unfairly.
As your reputation for being a fair and ethical negotiator grows, those within your business circle will seek to do business with you. This is nearly always the case in the world of commerce or in any other area of life. Lack of trust can and will diminish your power as a negotiator and can cause other parties to take their business elsewhere. One of the most valuable tools in your repertoire should be your credibility. For example, Warren Buffett is one of the wealthiest businessmen in America, one of the most successful investors in American history, and a highly respected philanthropist. He once was quoted as saying, "It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you'll do things differently." That is a powerful statement and one that will aid you in making decisions and choices as you advance through the levels of negotiating experience. The wrong decision made in haste can undo years of hard work. But remember if you do make a mistake that causes the other party to doubt your honesty, apologize and, if necessary, send in someone else to salvage the negotiations.
Understanding the Nuances of Body Language
Our physical movements and reactions speak volumes without our even realizing it. This form of communication can make an enormous difference in how much ground you can gain in a negotiation situation. Not only does the use of understanding body language increase your ability to clearly communicate, it also helps you read what others are not saying.
Anyone who plays poker well understands the importance of acquiring the skill of reading a person's nonverbal messages. Likewise, if you knew how much you were giving away to others, you most likely would try to be more aware of your own body language. There have been many books written on this subject, and several are listed in the "Other Resources" section of this section. It is suggested that you read one or all of them if you are unfamiliar with this aspect of reading people.
Below we offer some common physical reactions to emotion and thought. There is much to learn in this area and, as suggested, a good book or two on the subject will take you far in learning the many aspects of this important negotiating device. As with other tools in your arsenal, try practicing the art of reading body language with friends and family; this will help you hone your skills and gradually boost your confidence. Pay attention to what people are saying, but also to what they are not saying with their actions, movements, facial expressions, and tone of voice. Using this psychology of human behavior can and will make a big difference in how you interpret what others are really communicating or withholding.
Common Body Language Cues:
Clenching of the jaw: tension, annoyance.
Tapping fingers: impatience.
Crossed arms: distrust, self-protection.
Throat clearing: used to get attention or politely interrupt.
Darting eyes: distraction, deceit.
Hunched shoulders: discomfort, distrust.
Open palms: trust, openness, acceptance.
Chin up: defiance.
Avoidance of eye contact: fear, shame, embarrassment, deceit.
Direct eye contact: confidence, honesty, agreement.
The best relationships are built on trust, and this includes business relationships. Do not make the mistake of believing that those who behave unethically will ultimately win over those who make integrity the rule. Study those who have used honesty in business to build empires, as they are the people and companies who continue to win the respect and trust of colleagues, partners, customers, and the public in general. The nuances of human behavior, such as integrity, honesty, deceit, fear, conflict and body language, all play important roles in becoming a solid negotiator. Your reputation as a business person and one who is fair in business dealings will be built over time; thus, it is very important to keep that reputation in mind whenever you make important decisions for your company or yourself.