7 Common Negotiating Mistakes

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We know that the body’s natural reaction to stress or anxiety is to go on high alert, but if we don’t harness and control those feelings when we start negotiating a deal, they can get the better of us. Harvard Business School Professor Michael Wheeler wrote an article titled “The Curse of Negotiation Phobia” to address the fear of making deals, acknowledging that when the stakes are high, many negotiators lose their edge to insecurity and preventable mistakes.

Even when faced with the most daunting of deals, regarding the act of negotiation as a ‘game’ may alleviate the apprehension and give you the confidence to make power plays that will ultimately facilitate your desired result. Unlike strategy games like chess, however, the most effective deals are a win-win proposition for all parties rather than a winner-loser result. To help you maximize your bargaining prowess in business and in life, I’ve put together the seven most common mistakes to avoid during a negotiation:

1. Lacking confidence

Many people think they need to show a certain kind of confidence, like being loud, bold, or brazen, to successfully negotiate a deal. Others think that a lot of experience is required to be a good negotiator. Most of the time, it merely takes tenacity and good old preparation to ensure you are aptly equipped to assert mutually desirable terms, anticipate objections, and discern what are motivators or “hot buttons” will resonate with your opponent.

Projecting confidence also means having heart, which is endearing to others whether or not you have years of negotiation experience. This can also result in the opposition having a less defensive stance, making them more amenable to your stipulations. Without projecting a notable level of confidence, and backing that up with solid, well-researched information, failure will surely prevail.

2. Thinking something is non-negotiable

When you think like a negotiator, everything is negotiable! It’s a mindset you have to operate from in order to become not just a good negotiator, but a great one. When you decide that the terms for anything can be changed in your favor, a world of opportunity opens up.

Of course, as with most things in life, there will be rules to adhere to with each deal on the table, but even rules are negotiable. They can be modified if you simply propose an ethical, viable, and mutually beneficial alternative solution. Powerful negotiators are rule-breakers.

3. Not building relationships first

This is probably one of the biggest mistakes individuals make in regard to negotiation and in business in general. Perhaps you have attended the standard “networking” event where you give dozens of cards out without having a real conversation with anyone. It’s time to slow down and start making real connections with people—particularly those you might be involved in a deal with later on. Find out something about them and their lives. Get personal.

Much useful information can be gleaned during casual conversation, including what they value in life, what motivates them, what annoys them, their ethics, etc. Find out something about them, personally, and not just their business. You might be surprised how well you can leverage what you learn through a genuine conversation with someone.

4. Not asking for what you want

There is one key truth in negotiations: you must ask for what you want. Sounds simple enough, but in practice, it can often be daunting. People naturally fear rejection or were taught not to be “greedy” as children, so we refrain from asking for things in life. However, in business, rejection is never personal—it’s merely a reflection that you did not present a viable argument substantiating why you should get what you want.

It’s the offer that is being rejected, not you, so keep emotions in check and re-calibrate your approach. “No” often just reflects a need for more information, and you can take heart in knowing that people say no an average of three times before they say “yes.”

It is important to understand that, if you don’t ask, you don’t get, and the only way to master the art of rejection is to get rejected and keep asking. When negotiating, make it a priority to ask for exactly what you want. Most of the time, you will either receive what you want or an acceptable alternative.

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