Top Ten Negotiation Mistakes: Part Two

Written by Marty Latz, Latz Negotiation Institute


Mistakes happen in negotiation and in life. Our challenge? How to avoid them. Last month I described five common negotiation mistakes. Here are five more.


Mistake #6: Underestimating the value of personal likeability

I do about 50 percent of my training for lawyers (and the rest for sales, purchasing, executive teams, and others). Of these, lawyers get the worst rap in terms of likeability. It probably has to do with many being trained to fight verbally on behalf of their clients and not shying away from conflict.


Personally, as a lawyer, I don’t agree with this perception. Regardless, this has an impact in negotiations. How? Social psychologist and bestselling author Robert Cialdini calls it “The Liking Principle” in his classic book Influence: Science and Practice. It basically means people will more likely share information and say “yes” to folks they like versus those they don’t like.


This is a powerful psychological tendency, and many underestimate its impact. It also underscores the crucial nature – early on – of building sincere and real rapport based on common personal and professional interests.


This power will even cause folks to act against their seeming self-interest. My wife often gets discounts just because she’s very nice, friendly and professional. And she’s a lawyer!


Mistake #7: Bringing a win-lose mindset to the table

I recently reviewed Joshua Weiss’ The Book of Real-World Negotiations: Successful Strategies from Business, Government, and Daily Life. In it, he states his belief, “based on years of anecdotal evidence from a multitude of realms, is that there is a rather narrow and limited view of negotiation amongst the general public. Many laypeople believe negotiation is a win-or-lose endeavor that forces the parties to compromise on their essential goals. This perspective could not be further from the truth when it comes to successful negotiation.”


I agree that many, at least traditionally, bring this win-lose mentality to the table. I also agree it’s often a big mistake. This has become increasingly apparent ever since the 1981 publication of the groundbreaking book Getting To Yes: Negotiation Agreement Without Giving In, by my Harvard Law School professor Roger Fisher and William Ury.


And while its general “win-win” interest-based approach does not apply in all circumstances (some negotiations require a more competitive approach), it’s a major mistake to bring a win-lose mentality to negotiations without initially evaluating and/or exploring whether interest-based strategies will be more effective.


Mistake #8: Using “games” and unethical tactics

Some believe negotiation is a “game” requiring manipulative and deceptive tactics to gain an advantage, such as:

  • “nibbling” (asking for more at the end after you’ve reached agreement),

  • “flinching” in response to an offer even if you consider it eminently reasonable,

  • making sure the sun is in your counterpart’s eyes,

  • lowering your counterparts’ chairs so they look up at you (don’t laugh – this happens. A party once literally cut off part of the legs of their counterparts’ chairs), and the list goes on. (To counter a few of these, see my column “Prepare Yourself to Parry Common Negotiation Ploys.”)

While some of these might appear to work in the short-run, they almost always will haunt you in the long-run (and will certainly cause reputation problems).

Mistake #9: Closing based on the time negotiating

“We’ve already spent 12 hours today negotiating, to say nothing of the weeks we’ve spent on due diligence. It would be a real shame to walk away with nothing to show for it.”


Sound familiar? This statement seems logical. Nobody wants to waste their time. But it’s a mistake to decide whether to walk based on the time spent negotiating.


Whether you close should depend on: 1) does the deal – after all the negotiating – satisfy your fundamental goals, needs and interests, and 2) is it better than your best alternative to it (BATNA), or Plan B? If the answer is yes and yes, sign. If not, walk.


Considering your time at the table as a factor, even if it’s enormous, is more about your psychological feeling than about whether you should sign. It’s not a waste if you spent the time negotiating to get an agreement that’s better than your Plan B. It’s an investment that just didn’t work out. Sometimes walking away is the successful conclusion of a negotiation.

Mistake #10: Going for the last little bit at the end

The richest man in the world in 1973 – John Paul Getty – said: “My father said, ‘You must never try to make all the money that’s in a deal. Let the fellow make some money too, because if you have a reputation for always making all the money, you won’t have many deals.’”


Don’t try to get the last dollar from every deal. You might get it. But you will almost certainly regret it later.


Latz’s Lesson: Negotiation mistakes happen, which include underestimating likeability, a win-lose mindset, using negotiation “games,” closing due to time, and going for the last little bit. Avoid them.

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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 Latz@ExpertNegotiator.com