Five False “Truisms” in Negotiation

I continuously make an extensive study of the negotiation literature to prepare and update my “Best Practices in Negotiation”(TM) seminars that I conduct around the world.

As you might expect there is a lot of consistency among the authors, consultants, professional negotiators, and coaches that weigh in on this topic.

But I’ve noticed that some of these common practices are certainly not “Best Practices.”

In fact, I believe they are questionable generalizations that you need to scrutinize very carefully before following their advice.

Five of them leap out from the literature:

(1) “Nobody likes having their first offer accepted.” If you are selling and the first offer you hear is far and away ridiculously stratospheric, why wouldn’t you want to accept it, and fast? Those that say we’re disappointed if someone accepts immediately operate from these assumptions: (a) We should have bid higher or lower because they would have given-up more; (b) People like haggling and they’re disappointed if they don’t get a chance to put some moves on another party; and (c) Even if they’re immediately pleased, they’ll experience “negotiator’s remorse,” and be tougher adversaries in the next negotiation. I disagree with each of these supports.

(2) “He who offers first, loses.” Again, if a party has done his homework he’ll make a very favorable offer which allows him flexibility. I’ve heard a variant of this adage in selling circles, where they say the first person to break a silence, between seller and buyer, loses. Baloney! All you have are two increasingly edgy people who are wondering why a silence has lasted so long. If you’re too quiet, you’ll seem unduly strategic and needlessly threatening.

(3) “Never stick with an issue that isn’t working. Move onto the next.” You might want to argue long and hard for something of absolutely zero value, because later by conceding the point, you’ll gain something big.

(4) “Deadlocking,” not consummating a deal, is a failure. Horse feathers! Sometimes you enter a negotiation simply to learn the other person’s position, or to dramatize that you’re TRYING to negotiate, when in fact you won’t budge unless you’re offered the moon and the stars. Or, you’re negotiating with A, simply to gain leverage over B, a party that is your preferred source.

(5) “Win-Win” negotiating is the best kind, and it is possible to achieve in all contexts. Not so. When there is one party with disproportionate power, the other party is more like a beggar at the table than a fully enfranchised partner.

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