Business negotiators can get useful advice from a variety of sources, from books to blogs to training and classes—and even, as it turns out, from TV shows. As you may have noticed, negotiations frequently play out on TV: from hostage negotiators on police procedurals to fast-talking lawyers in corporate boardrooms to the real-life entrepreneurs and … Read More
Learn how to negotiate like a diplomat, think on your feet like an improv performer, and master job offer negotiation like a professional athlete when you download a copy of our FREE special report, Negotiation Skills: Negotiation Strategies and Negotiation Techniques to Help You Become a Better Negotiator, from the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School.
What are Negotiation Mistakes?
Every negotiator makes mistakes, but some of the most common negotiation mistakes are easy to avoid.
One of the biggest negotiation mistakes any business negotiator can make is failing to thoroughly prepare. Wise negotiators understand the importance of taking ample time to analyze several aspects of negotiation carefully, including their best alternative to a negotiated agreement, or BATNA, and their reservation value, or walkaway point.
Furthermore, in some corporate negotiations, negotiators often care most about getting the best price possible, assessing the other party’s ability to follow through, and closing the deal, that they overlook potential ethical concerns. Add to the emotional aspect of a negotiation, and it’s easy to see how you can fail to notice many negotiation mistakes.
Another common problem centers on communication. Poor communication explains many of our negotiation mistakes, write Roger Fisher, William Ury, and Bruce Patton in their landmark book Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In (Penguin, 3rd edition, 2011). Especially during intense negotiations, it’s easy to lose connection with our counterparts. When negotiations get heated, try taking a break to let everyone cool down. When you regroup, talk about what happened, giving everyone time to air their concerns.
While these mistakes can lead to bad deals, soured relationships, and less than desirable outcomes, they’re also largely within our control to manage. Sometimes just taking a few deep breaths might be all the reset we need to avoid making negotiation mistakes.
Be sure to download our special free report, The New Conflict Management: Effective Conflict Resolution Strategies to Avoid Litigation, where renowned negotiation experts uncover unconventional approaches to conflict management that can turn adversaries into partners. Featuring three case studies, this valuable report provides proven strategies for leveraging opportunity out of conflict, and tips for creating value and improving relationships, even with difficult people.
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The longer a dispute drags on, the less likely a collaborative solution often appears to be. But that view may be pessimistic: At a certain point, the time will be ripe for agreement. A labor dispute between the Minnesota Orchestra’s musicians and management highlights negotiation mistakes that can drive us apart—and ripeness theory suggests how … Read More
Sometimes our negotiation mistakes are glaring: We accidentally reveal our bottom line, criticize the other party when patience was warranted, or get our numbers mixed up. More often, though, our negotiation mistakes are invisible: We get a perfectly good deal but are unaware that we could have gotten a better one if we hadn’t succumbed … Read More
Negotiators planning to engage in conflict resolution in a personal or business disputes should be aware of cognitive biases in negotiation, particularly when your dispute is being decided by a judge. Before doing so, you should consider carefully what psychologists, political scientists, and legal scholars have learned about judges from negotiation research and social science: … Read More
Apple isn’t used to making negotiation mistakes. The company has often found success by charging headfirst into unfamiliar industries, from book publishing to music to mobile phones, and disrupting its long-standing business models. In the early 2000s, for example, the company’s cofounder, Steve Jobs, pressured music labels to switch from selling $15 CDs to selling … Read More
Experienced negotiators understand that they should reject any deal on the table that is inferior to their best alternative to a negotiated agreement, or BATNA. At an auto dealership, for example, you shouldn’t buy a used car if you are pretty sure you can get a better deal on a comparable car elsewhere. Yet in … Read More
To get an idea or innovation off the ground takes strong business negotiation skills as an entrepreneur. Yet, in their book Entrepreneurial Negotiation: Understanding and Managing the Relationships that Determine Your Entrepreneurial Success (Palgrave/Macmillan, 2018), Program on Negotiation instructor Samuel Dinnar and MIT professor Lawrence Susskind write that many entrepreneurs are falling short. Here, Susskind explains … Read More
We recently had a question about some common negotiation mistakes people make while they’re still preparing for a negotiation. Kessely Hong, Senior Lecturer in Public Policy and the Faculty Chair of the MPA Programs and the Mid-Career MPA Summer Program at the Harvard Kennedy School, took time to discuss these mistakes and steps we can … Read More
In 2019, face-to-face meetings between then U.S. president Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, held in Hanoi, Vietnam, came to an abrupt end after Kim insisted that the United States lift all economic sanctions against his country in return for denuclearization. Trump refused and ended the talks, telling reporters, “Sometimes you have to … Read More
When we think of our worst negotiation mistakes, they tend to be recent blunders. But what about negotiation mistakes whose repercussions accumulate over years, even decades? A failed negotiation case study from 1976 shows how carelessly negotiated deals can lead to long-term headaches and losses. A Short Season In 1974, brothers Ozzie and Daniel Silna, Latvian immigrant … Read When Negotiation Mistakes Compound over Time
In her book, The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why It Matters (Riverhead Books, 2018),Thrive Labs founder Priya Parker, a professional facilitator with a background in conflict resolution, argues that most of us just go through the motions when planning events, whether a dinner party, a conference, or a negotiation. The result is often … Read More
Cross cultural negotiation examples provide insights into how negotiation techniques change depending on the context in which negotiators find themselves. As Professor Cheryl Rivers of Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, Australia, points out in a recent negotiation research literature review, seasoned negotiators often hear stories about the unethical behaviors of people of other nationalities. … Read More
Many professional negotiators have come away from talks wondering, How did that pleasant discussion turn sour? Why did the deal unravel at the last minute? … Read For Better Communication, Try Appreciation
Poor communication explains many of our negotiation mistakes, write Roger Fisher, William Ury, and Bruce Patton in Getting to Yes, their landmark book. Here are four negotiation skills tips adapted from Susan Hackley’s May 2005 article “Can You Break the Cycle of Bad Communication?,” first published in Negotiation. … Read More
The winner’s curse negotiations, when a negotiator overbids for an item due to competitive pressure or other non-value related factors, is a major pitfall that integrative bargainers should seek to avoid. … Read Definition of the Winner’s Curse in Negotiations
In corporate negotiation, negotiators often care most about getting the best price possible, assessing the other party’s ability to follow through, and closing the deal. Unfortunately, such business preoccupations can lead dealmakers to overlook potential ethical concerns, as current negotiations in the news often attest. Examining some of Facebook’s recent corporate negotiation mistakes, we describe … Read More
Entrepreneurial Negotiation: Understanding and Managing the Relationships that Determine Your Entrepreneurial Success The great majority of startups fail, and most entrepreneurs who have succeeded have had to bounce back from serious mistakes. Entrepreneurs fumble key interactions because they don’t know how to handle the negotiation challenges that almost always arise. They mistakenly believe that deals … Read More
In a winner’s curse negotiation scenario, the winner may often find herself on the losing end of the deal. Ever win something you wanted, then realize too late you got a raw deal? Here’s how to recognize when backing away is your best bet in a negotiation. … Read Try to Avoid the Winners Curse When Negotiating
A 62-year-old salesman believes he has convincing evidence that his boss passed him over for a promotion because of his age. What options does he have? He could let the matter drop and perhaps look for another job. He could file an employment-discrimination lawsuit. Or, if his company offers mediation services, he could have the … Read How to Manage Conflict at Work