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The Fallacy of Being Adversarial to get the Best Deal

Jared Bamford
Pull Rope

Recently I was assisting a client on an important deal when their boss turned to me and said:  

“If I don’t hear our counterparty complain about how tough you’re being at least twice over the next few weeks of this negotiation, I will not be convinced that we haven’t left value on the table”  


It turns out that our counter party’s lead negotiator was naturally competitive. They wanted to haggle and persuade and were not willing to share information. However, after a couple of protracted meetings, they agreed with me that we were getting nowhere and needed a different approach which was more collaborative. We needed to share information including priorities, constraints and areas of flexibility - not so I could punish them or deprive them of what they wanted, but to trade it to them and get what I wanted in return. Long story short, we reached a great deal for both parties soon after. 


The thing is - the idea of losing value due to being collaborative could not be further from the truth. 


It’s a common misconception that you need to approach the negotiation in an adversarial way to achieve the best outcome. Sure, if you have all the power and you don’t care about a future relationship then you can make a demand and not back down. That involves little or no skill. But what if you don’t hold the balance of power? Or there are limited or no alternatives? Or the longer-term relationship is important? Will getting red faced, thumping the table and refusing to be collaborative really ensure you achieve your desired result? Hardly likely. 


If your mindset is to win, then this means that there must also be a loser. It’s easy to get red faced and emotive when you’re negotiating (especially with your own money), but don’t let your ego the better of you. 


Instead, try the following tips: 

  • Slow things down. Summarise regularly and take adjournments when necessary to take some of the steam out of the situation. 
  • Share lots of information (just not information that will be detrimental for you). This will help to build trust and reciprocity. 
  • Identify any irritants and remove them if you can. 
  • If they’re being adversarial, stay disciplined and don’t respond in kind. Remember your behaviour will have an effect on theirs. Whatever you do, DO NOT reward their bad behaviour by giving in. Remember to always trade. 


If you care about the longer-term relationship, a collaborative approach to negotiations will achieve the best outcome. Behaving competitively will only ensure there is a loser… maybe two. 


Happy negotiating! 

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