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Surprises Can Be Opportunities!

Notes on Negotiation

Written by Marty Latz, Latz Negotiation Institute

I’m a planner, as a core element of what I teach involves creating Strategic Negotiation Plans based on the experts’ proven research. To implement proven negotiation strategies in a systematic, disciplined way, you must plan and think it through before you pick up the phone or meet and engage.

But everyone knows that “the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry” from Robert Burns’ poem “To a Mouse.” You can’t plan for everything, as you will inevitably encounter challenges in negotiations that you didn’t and perhaps even couldn’t anticipate.

So what should you do, especially if the unexpected change seems to decrease your ability to accomplish your goals?

1. Approach change as an opportunity

Many of us as we get older view change as negative. We get set in our ways. If this is you, fight this instinct in your negotiations.

Your attitude toward change can make or break your negotiations. Instead of fearing change, embrace it and bring your creativity to the table to address it.

2. Explore, reassess, reevaluate and pivot

Strategic Negotiation Plans should be living, breathing documents subject to revision based on new information and changed circumstances. Such plans must be flexible and should never be rigid. You must be too.

So take a break when the unexpected occurs. Explore the change and get more information about it, especially about the interests at play. Then reassess, reevaluate and revise your plan accordingly.

I started a negotiation software company years ago and one of my major investors, a very successful entrepreneur, told me he invested based on our plan. But he said our success also depended on our ability and willingness to pivot when we inevitably hit unexpected roadblocks. He was right.

3. Strategically adapt and improvise

Long-time Harvard Business School Professor Michael Wheeler in his excellent book The Art of Negotiation: How to Improvise Agreement in a Chaotic World, recognizes that negotiation is not linear and requires a “process of exploration that demands ongoing learning, adapting, and influencing. [Negotiators’] agility enables them to reach agreement when others would be stalemated."

I agree.

Latz's Lesson: When you inevitably face the unexpected in your negotiations, embrace it and explore, reassess, reevaluate, pivot, strategically adapt, and revise your plan appropriately.


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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