Whether you're haggling for a deal on a car or trying to get your desired salary, there are variety of situations in which you find yourself negotiating for what you want — or what you don't want to give. And if you keep these common mistakes in mind, you can improve your negotiation skills and come out on top.
Image adapted from Pan JJ (Shutterstock)
I've spent the majority of my career negotiating and training people to negotiate. Along the way I've made plenty of mistakes and learned that negotiation can often be improved by actually doing the opposite of what I'd originally think to do. Here are some common mistakes.
Mistake #1: Providing Too Many Options
You might think from conventional wisdom that you should offer as many options as possible when negotiating. The other guy is bound to agree with one, right? The more choice you provide, the better. But that's not necessarily the case.
Instead, limit options to two or three. The paradox of choice dictates that the more choices you provide to someone, the more they like aspects of each option. Therefore, they over-think and believe they can find the perfect solution. If you go to the store and see 20 t-shirts in your size, you are likely to be more frustrated than if you just see three, as you'd have to spend more time and energy deciding which shirt is what you need. People like easy, quick solutions. They are less likely to second guess and will make a decision more quickly if you restrict the available options.
Mistake #2: Falling For The Bluff
When someone gets passionate and appears overly confident, you generally believe them. When they vehemently protest that your price is too high and they are going to walk, you take their confidence at face value and cave. Of course, they might be bluffing.
But people who bluff generally overcompensate. In my experience, the people who screamed and yelled and made the biggest fuss about walking out on the deal, actually didn't mean it. They were just trying to intimidate me. And it worked, until I noticed the pattern. Rather it was the guy who was not confident and was actually hesitant who walked. When a person is actually closing the door, they generally regret that it has come to this, and do not feel the need to scream. They are done. The more someone protests that the price is too high and makes a fuss, generally the more wiggle room you have. What you should fear is the quiet negotiator who isn't concerned with how he appears. The more someone is trying to impress you with their confidence and with how serious they are, the more likely they are bluffing.
Mistake #3: Playing Games And Bluffing Yourself
It's a common conception that negotiation is always adversarial, and the more you let the other guy know what you want, the more he's going to use it to his advantage to exploit you.
But making your goals unclear probably won't help. If you are not clear about what you want, you are unlikely to get it. I've found that focusing on the outcome, and not on how you appear with adversarial posturing, leads to successful outcomes. State what you want and focus only on your intended goal and not on your ego. Relay your position in a simple, straight-forward, and confident way. You'd be surprised how many people respond. Most people don't react well to distracting, ambiguous game-playing, and once you've been discovered, it's hard to regain your footing.
Mistake #4: Dwelling On Sunk Costs And Time Spent
You probably feel like the more time and money you've spent on a deal, the closer you are to closing it and the better deal it's going to be. All that work has to pay off eventually, right?
Not really. Most of my best deals were quick because they were simple. Sadly, the deals I spent the most time on, agonized over, and lost sleep about, died. They died because they were too complicated. Generally, the more complicated a deal is, the less likely you are to close it. Focus on deals that make sense, as time is your most valuable asset. Do not spend time dwelling on the time and money you have already spent. It is gone. Opportunity costs are too high to continue beating a dead horse.
Keep these mistakes in mind and you'll have the upper hand when you're sparring over a negotiation.