We all make mistakes. This is true in life generally and in negotiations. The key is to raise your awareness and get more intentional about how you negotiate. When you make a mistake, recognize it and learn from it. It’s usually easy to realize when you slip up and say something inappropriate or give away information that compromises your position. It’s trickier to spot our unconscious saboteurs.
How do you recognize the myriad of invisible mistakes you make in your negotiations? Let’s explore some of the most common overlooked negotiation mistakes and how you can avoid them. I did an article for Psychology Today on the 7 Deadly Sins of Negotiation. These are not envy, gluttony, greed, lust, pride, sloth or wrath (from the Christian tradition) … although it’s solid advice to avoid those as well.
In this piece, I want to focus on the mistakes we make that are less obvious … that lurk below the surface of our awareness. By talking about them, we lift them up to our consciousness so we can get intentional about avoiding them.
Needing to Win
Our conditioning around negotiation is usually based on an outdated competitive model. When you think of negotiations, the first image that likely comes to mind is a boardroom full of power suits. We think we need to ‘win’ the negotiation.
Focusing on ‘winning’ misses the point. Effective negotiation should be about securing your desired outcomes (or better), not on beating the other party. Focusing on getting the better of the other party precludes the open mind necessary to recognize creative solutions that may arise. It also often results in recourse to tactics that are counterproductive. Taking a collaborative approach over a competitive one typically secures better outcomes, better relationships, better buy-in, and longer lasting agreements.
Bringing Bias to the Table
We all carry biases – some conscious, some not. Recognizing how these biases raise their ugly heads to sabotage your negotiations is an important step to getting best outcomes. Here’s just a brief sampling of the most common biases that poison our perspective in negotiation. See which resonate with you and be on guard against them when you prepare for your upcoming negotiations.
- Self-serving bias skews our perception as we see our position in an overly favourable light. Egocentrism bias prevents us from really appreciating the other party’s position as our focus is too narrowly on our own goals.
- Inattentional bias causes us to see, hear and experience only what we’re focused on and so we miss valuable information, insights, and cues.
- Endowment bias leaves us over-valuing what we bring to the table and under-estimating the value the other party brings.
- Confirmation bias has us search for and interpret information in a way to confirm our pre-existing beliefs.
- Affinity bias relates to our predisposition to favour people that remind us of ourselves.
We’re usually unaware that these common biases are affecting how we show up, how we perceive the issue on the table and negatively impact on our ability to get better outcomes.
Lack of Integrity
"Integrity" is a word that gets thrown around a lot, but usually isn’t considered with depth. The more familiar aspect of integrity is connected to how you act (i.e. whether morally or not). If you’re inclined to take ethical shortcuts, it will invariably come back to bite you in negotiations.
The less considered, but equally important aspect of integrity is based on the Latin word ‘integer’. When we are not consistent with our own values and sense of self, we are not ‘whole’ and therefore aren’t in integrity.
Both of these aspects of integrity are key to how you show up for negotiating and to the results you’re likely to achieve. When out of integrity, you can’t show up as an effective negotiator. Negotiations don’t work if integrity is lacking.
Ego in the House
Ego can be the kiss of death in negotiations. When you’re driven by ego, you lose control of the negotiations. You’ll be easier to manipulate, less able to assess information accurately or recognize opportunities that might show up.
Ego shows up in a number of ways. If you need to look good, need to win, can’t admit when you don’t know something, or talk too much, ego is in the house. Wanting to be liked is another (often ignored) sign of ego.
If you find yourself making the negotiation all about you and your needs, pause, take a breath and refocus your energy on the other party and what they need.
Reactivity and Emotion
Your success as a negotiator depends, in part, on your ability to remain centered, calm, collected and compelling. If you allow yourself to be triggered into reactivity, you’ll lose the clarity and focus you need to secure best outcomes.
Bringing your deep, emotional ‘why’ to a negotiation is not the same as being emotional in a negotiation. Knowing your why can help keep you grounded and bring emotional strength and resilience. This is not the same as letting yourself give in to anger, shame, guilt, resentment, or the range of other self-protection negative emotions that can sabotage your negotiations.
Attachment (a.k.a. I Can’t Let Go)
Typically, you go into a negotiation because you have an objective you’d like to achieve. However, it’s important not to become so attached to the outcome that you lose perspective in the process. Being too attached to a singular outcome will have you bargaining past the point where it makes sense or walking away when a deal was lying on the table if you’d only been open to look at other possibilities. The hallmark of a great negotiator is knowing when to walk away and/or being open to other alternatives. As noted above, effective negotiation isn’t about winning or losing. It’s about winning better for everyone whenever possible.
The most dangerous mistakes we can make are usually those we’re not aware of. This article was intended to raise your awareness about the most common invisible negotiation mistakes so that you can avoid them.