Are You Negotiating With the Enemy?

As I usually do, I began a recent negotiation workshop by asking participants to describe how they typically approach negotiations. Do they enjoy negotiating? Does it make them uncomfortable? Do they like to make the first move, or hang back and wait for the other person to begin?

The first man to respond said he enjoyed negotiating because of the strategy and intrigue involved. Another talked about the importance of not allowing the other party to take advantage. The response that generated the most conversation came from the woman who noted how unnerving it is to “go up against the enemy.”

Those are all pretty common responses, and they reflect how we have all been taught or, in many cases, not taught to negotiate with others. Like the woman in the workshop, we often see the other negotiating party as an adversary rather than a partner, as a person bent on denying us what we deserve rather than someone interested in crafting a deal that will make us both happy.

When we begin a negotiation anticipating deceit or malice, we are rarely delighted with the results. However, when we are honest about our parameters and open about our concerns, we tend to expand the number of points on which we can negotiate—and sometimes get even more than we imagined possible.

How do you typically approach a negotiation? Are you straightforward about what matters to you? What’s been your best negotiating experience? What about your worst?

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