Good Negotiators Always Prepare

Posted 08.31.2016

Good Negotiators Always Prepare

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned that we often glide over important preparation prior to negotiating. We do this because it takes time, we don’t like doing research that indicates we are not right on all points, and because we tend to over-estimate our ability to “wing it”.

If taking the time to do a good job is a problem, then let me save us a bit more time by suggesting that some of us need read no further. Good negotiators always prepare.

For those still with us, let’s talk a bit about human nature. It’s actually is quite funny. If someone tells us we aren’t particularly handy with tools or new technology, we smile and sometimes rationalize about our age or about not having had sufficient opportunity.

If someone points out our notoriously unsuccessful or overly colorful love life, we blush. If someone points out we haven’t always been the best judge of character, we embarrassingly nod.

But let someone even hint that we may not be very good at dealing with others or that we don’t do well standing up for ourselves, and we become defensive, emotional and argumentative.

Serious negotiating has no room for pride. In preparing to negotiate we need to leave our ego at home. For preparation purposes, the other party is a far better negotiator and already has his or her ducks in a row. So we’ll need to be all that much more prepared.

That leaves just one more point: our research will often indicate we aren’t always right.  Bummer! So now what?

Remember in high school English or language arts when we had to participate in those debates at the front of the class? We were put on teams, explained the rules and even given the topic to be debated. But the teacher never told us what side of the topic we would be debating. To make things worse, we ended up having to debate from the position we didn’t even agree with.

Skilled negotiators have to know more than just how to eloquently advance their strengths or best points. They should be able to credibly argue the other side’s points almost as effectively.

We, as negotiators, also need to be able to address minor issues before they become big ones. We need to know which points to concede, which points to highlight and to strategically know when to do each. No party is ever 100% right or 100% entitled.

Knowing our weak points, knowing when we may even be wrong, knowing the other party’s arguments and having thoroughly researched all options will help turn our weaknesses into strengths.