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Mistakes in Negotiations

Notes on Negotiation

Written by Marty Latz, Latz Negotiation Institute

I have always been intensely competitive – in sports, business and in negotiations. It’s a strength and weakness. I remember losing a particular high school tennis match that really motivated me to hit the practice court even more. And to this day, I still feel personally disappointed when I don’t sign up potential clients.

Of course, bringing this attitude to the negotiation table can be a major mistake in certain circumstances. I’ve learned this over the years. And that’s the crucial point – we must all learn from our mistakes.

Here are two negotiation weaknesses I have worked hard to address along with how to overcome them. You might recognize these in yourself, too.

Not listening deeply and interrupting

I enjoy talking, debating and have strong opinions. And I’ve never been afraid to share my views, especially on controversial topics. In many ways, this prompted me to go to law school in the first place.

The downside, however, is that I’m not naturally a great listener. I can also be impatient and interrupt at times.

This can be problematic in many negotiations, where power accrues to those that ask questions, actively and deeply listen, probe to understand their counterparts’ interests, and don’t interrupt (which shuts off information flow and often causes personal resentment).

How can we all do better? One, recognizing this weakness is a major step toward addressing it. And two, make a list of questions to ask and information to get in your negotiations. Then put on the top of that list “Don’t Interrupt.” This will visually help you do this in the negotiation itself.

Too aggressive in the offer-concession stage

I really don’t like to leave value on the table. So my tendency is to be pretty aggressive in my offers and counteroffers. But it’s hard to put that genie back in the bottle if you’re too aggressive and your counterpart believes you’re overshooting too much or, worse yet, gets offended (I mean truly gets offended, not just acting that way).

The solution? Tie your moves to independent objective standards and benchmarks like precedent, market, expert opinions, costs, or efficiency. By doing so, even when you’re aggressive, you can justify each move as “fair and reasonable” by pointing to these norms.

Over the years, I have learned from my mistakes. Of course, I’m still working to improve. And I’m still competitive. But I channel it a lot better than when I was in high school.

Latz’s Lesson: We all make mistakes in negotiations. The key is to recognize and learn from them and not make them again. Lifelong learning!


Marty Latz is the founder of Latz Negotiation Institute, a national negotiation training and consulting company, and ExpertNegotiator, a Web-based software company that helps managers and negotiators more effectively negotiate and implement best practices based on the experts' proven research.  He is also the author of Gain the Edge! Negotiating to Get What You Want (St. Martin’s Press 2004). He can be reached at 480-951-3222 or

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