4 Tragic Mistakes You Need To Avoid When Negotiating An Agreement


Producer’s note: Someone on Quora asked: What are the worst negotiating mistakes? Here is one of the best answers that’s been pulled from the thread.

1. Reacting or acting without thinking.

“When angry, you will make the best speech you will ever regret.” It is always much easier to react rather than rein in our emotions when faced with difficulty from the other side of the negotiation. Being quick to anger is perhaps the most common mistake made and often lengthens the time necessary for the deal to be made.

There are plenty of negotiations I have been involved with where anger only served to bring the entire situation to an impasse. Effective negotiation requires the ability to step back, or as I like to call it, “going to the balcony”. Going to the balcony means keeping your eyes on the big picture and seeing what is truly important to you. I use this metaphor often for negotiations as it allows your mind to go off to a mental balcony to gain some perspective and distance. Distance helps in keeping one’s emotions in check and their true goals in sight.

2. Not separating the people from the problem.

Another mistake in negotiation is thinking that being soft to those on the other side means being soft on the problem. The opposite, being hard on the people as well as the problem, is also a mistake. We are not solving people, as human beings always have emotions that will tie them up. We are solving the issue at hand. The trick is to be soft on the person, hard on the problem. That is what successful negotiators do. This, most certainly, is one of the most difficult challenges in any negotiation.

3. Not having a BATNA.

A classic mistake is forgetting to ask yourself how you would satisfy your interests if unable to reach a negotiated agreement. This is your BATNA, your Best Alternative To A Negotiated Agreement. It helps to ground you with confidence that you will be able to find a way to your interests in some way. It also helps with giving you a baseline for assessing possible agreements. The stronger your BATNA, the greater your negotiating power is.

4. Compromising too soon.

Rather than making compromises too soon, it is better to explore the interests and the standards of fairness each side of a negotiation has. Once one does so throughout the first half of the negotiation, gaining a better understanding of the individual perspectives and needs of each party involved, it would be more wise then to begin offering compromises.

This answer originally appeared at Quora: The best answer to any question. Ask a question, get a great answer. Learn from experts and get insider knowledge.