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.