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The 7 pitfalls of negotiation

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Does the word “negotiation” make your blood pressure rise? Whether you’re negotiating the biggest deal of your life or where to go for lunch, much of life is negotiation. And, as in a game of chess, the negotiator with the best strategy usually wins. One careless move and the game is lost.

“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,” says contract-negotiation expert Eldonna Lewis-Fernandez. Here, from her book Think Like a Negotiator, are the 7 most common negotiating mistakes:

1.     A lack of confidence. Some negotiators believe being loud and brazen will win the day. But generally speaking, tenacity and preparedness are the best approach for finding common ground with an opponent, anticipating his objections and discovering his motivations. Being confident also means showing your humanity, which will put him at ease.

2.     Neglecting relationship-building. This is perhaps the biggest mistake of all—in business and life in general. Perhaps you’ve attended a networking event and come home with a stack of cards but without having had a single real conversation. Slow down and start forging real bonds with people, especially those who are potential clients. Take an interest in their personal lives. Learning what matters to others can be of great value if you later find yourself in negotiations with them.

3.     Believing in non-negotiables. Everything is negotiable! To be a truly skilled negotiator, you must free your mind from restrictions. Decide at the outset that the terms of whatever you are negotiating can be altered to your advantage. You must respect the ground rules if you hope to keep the lines of communication open. But try not to concede too much up front and remember that the other party may be open to alternative solutions.

4.     Failing to ask for what you want. This is a no-brainer: You must ask for you want in a negotiation to have any hope of getting it. People may make this mistake if they fear rejection or loath being seen as greedy. It may be helpful to remember that, in business, rejection is never personal, just a sign that you did not make a good enough case for your position.

5.     Saying too much. Continuing to talk instead of holding your tongue at crucial moments can result in lost ground during a negotiation. Ask for what you want and be quiet. Yes, you may have to suffer through an awkward silence or two, but your chance of success will increase dramatically.

6.     Neglecting documentation. It is essential to get your final agreement in writing. If you’re involved in an import contractual agreement, consider consulting an attorney. The value of a written agreement is that it dispels ambiguity and backtracking. Thorough documentation can prevent confusion and perception problems and protects everyone.

7.     Failing to read before signing. No matter how many pages an agreement has, read each one before signing. It’s better to take your time at the beginning of an agreement to make sure it’s what you want than to try to change it later.

Whether the thought of having to negotiate something gets you fired up or makes you want to run and hide, learning the art of negotiation will give you an edge in your quest for what you want.

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