Avoid the Pitfall of Attachment in Negotiations

A recent ‘coaching’ call reminded me of the importance of one of the fundamentals of negotiation. I received a call from a distraught colleague who had just lost a deal. They had reached an agreement in principle but then the conversation went sideways and fell off the rails. She was calling for help on how to get it back on track. It was immediately apparent that a basic negotiation principle had been abandoned or forgotten in the heat of the moment.

I see this mistake happen time and again. It’s heartbreaking to watch people lose great deals or jump into bad deals when a few simple tools could have made for a happier ending. In this particular case the deal was at the final stages when the issue of value came up. A few questions on my part made it clear that this was a trigger for both parties, so it wasn’t surprising that things got heated quickly. The other party had taken offence and had a mini meltdown as the deal spiraled out of reach. My colleague now regretted how it had ended and wanted to revive the deal.

I knew some simple tactics that could help achieve that goal but first I wanted to explore the often ignored most important question to consider.

“Are you sure this deal still makes sense for you?” I asked.

This would seem like an obvious thing to consider and yet too often we get so caught up in the chase of the deal that we don’t ensure we keep checking in to make sure the deal still makes sense. Whether it’s determining if the cost or price point is still viable, or if you can live with the terms, or if the relationship is even one you still want to entertain, we often overlook this vital check-in when we fear the deal is slipping away.

One of the elements of my No F.E.A.R. negotiation system is ‘no attachment’. Don’t ever get so attached to getting a deal that you continue to bargain long after it makes sense i.e. when the deal is no longer advantageous for you. Ideally, you always go into a negotiation with crystal clarity around your desired outcomes, where you’ve identified your objectives with specificity. This preparation includes consideration of your bottom line, awareness of the best alternatives to a negotiated settlement and the zone of potential agreement. This consideration should include both tangible and intangible elements of the deal.

In this case, it was clear my prospective new client had started to bargain against herself. Further, she was shaken by the other side’s meltdown and felt the need to right the perceived wrong. I reminded her of the old proverb – when someone shows you who they are, believe them – and I urged her to consider whether she was sure this was a long-term client relationship she wanted to maintain.

This simple exchange gave some perspective and allowed my friend to make a more informed decision about how to proceed. Clarity around your objectives at the outset gives you the certainty and confidence you’ll need to hold the requisite detachment. Not being too attached to the outcome is a powerful place from which to bargain. Be prepared to walk away from a deal if the outcome doesn’t serve you. Be confident in knowing (or trusting) that another deal is waiting around the corner. Great negotiators know when to walk away.

This confidence also allows you to be open to other alternatives. Remember, effective negotiating isn’t a competition. It isn’t about winning or losing. It’s about looking for better results and creative solutions that exceed both parties’ expectations. Ironically, being intentional about not getting too attached to the deal increases the likelihood of securing your desired outcome … and more.   

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Attachment in Negotiations, Negotiation, pitfall of attachment


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