By Martin Medeiros
I often write about negotiation, influence and persuasion and how to use these tools effectively to communicate our needs to the world. Specifically, what and how to negotiate on strategic, tactical and operational levels. When we want something, or someone approaches us for something, we can easily get pulled into the negotiation dynamic. If someone makes a personal request, we may be flattered, or we may feel like we have to engage as a common courtesy. Alternatively, we may be thinking “just show up“, as if our simple presence will create results in our favor. Showing up is not a strategy. But should you negotiate at all when you hear the call? Lewicki et. al. in Essentials of Negotiation gives us a great overview of negotiation and is a good guide for learning the negotiation. Albeit a pricey tome, it belongs on the shelf with Getting to Yes, 161 Negotiation Tactics, and Influence. Lewicki lists eight situations when to avoid negotiation and when it is inappropriate to negotiate:
- Substantial and Total Loss Possible. If I stand to suffer a substantial and total loss, avoid attempts to negotiate and choose another option.
- Limited Supply. If you control a limited supply of a good, service or your time, do not negotiate.
- Illegal or Unethical Request. If you are asked to break a law, tell a white lie or act against your ethical standards, do not negotiate. Lies lead to misrepresentation, misrepresentation can lead to fraud, and fraud leads to jail time. Going against your standards undermines credibility.
- No Stake in the Transaction. If you have no gain or loss avoidance prospect, do not negotiate. For example, do not engage in negotiations that have nothing to do with your tangible or intangible needs.
- Out of Time. Negotiating well takes time, planning and mental preparation. If you have no time, do not engage in negotiations. Time pressure militates against you getting your needs met.
- Opposition Acts in Bad Faith. Thinking your negotiation adversary will start acting in good faith given a track record of bad faith is foolish. There is more heartache than upside with bad faith negotiators. Do not negotiate with those who act in bad faith.
- You have Plenty of Time. When you don’t know what to do because the situation, technology, solutions and leadership is rapidly changing, do not negotiate but wait. Things could quickly change your position converting a good accord, poorly timed, into a bad one. Waiting for things to stabilize can be better.
- You are Unprepared. If you are unprepared, do not negotiate. In fact cancel the negotiation if you are not prepared. The unschooled think showing up and staging “the walkout” is an effective negotiation tactic. However, 99.9% of the time “the walkout” means you were not prepared. One of our teachings in my keynote speeches https:/martinmedeiros.com is to plan strategically before the negotiation. Researchers at Northwestern University Kellogg School including Leigh Thompson emphasize that 80% of your negotiation activity should be on preparation. If you are unprepared, do not negotiate.
Knowing when to negotiate is important and it is equally important when not to negotiate. As always, this blog is for discussion purposes and is not intended as legal or financial advice.