Should I Stay or Should I Go?
Just like knowing when to leave a party, one of the most critical skills in a negotiation is knowing when to leave it. Here’s what you want to avoid, some reasons why you might be trapped in such a dynamic, and ways to try and get out of it!
Leaving the negotiation too soon:
Are you the kind of person who is afraid of asking for too much, or “pushing your partner too far”? If so, you may be quitting on negotiations long before you should! Sometimes it’s just about feeling uncomfortable “taking the heat” of a negotiating position.
The main problem here is that you miss out on the benefits you could reap by hanging on just that little bit longer! Think about asking your son to fold the laundry, then caving in when he says he’s no good at it. Or asking your boss for a raise, but not asking what the reason is if she rejects the request, so you can learn from it. Not every “no” is a final, absolute “no”. And our fear of “no” should definitely not stop us from trying or asking (expect a post on the different ways men and women perceive the word “no” soon)!
How Can I Avoid Leaving Too Early?
If you feel you give up too early in negotiations, try a little, harmless trick: look for small negotiations in your life (like asking your flatmate to pay their share of the bills, or asking to return a dish you didn’t order in a restaurant) and try insisting just one more time on your position. Do it in a way that’s comfortable for you, but make sure to resist the urge to cave in. Tell that little voice in your head making you uncomfortable to shut up just this one time. I promise you, you’ll find that the world keeps turning, and it may even send a complimentary dessert your way.
Leaving it too late:
Do you find yourself knee-deep in situations you really wish you weren’t in, wondering how you gave things you really didn’t want to? Ask yourself if you may have a problem with leaving negotiations too late. Out of fear of displeasing your counterpart, or not wanting to be the one who initiated “breaking the dishes”, you may wait passively for them to end the negotiation, or simply not realise that you have the choice to decide when to leave!
Think of the women you know, who stay in a relationship where they give so much more than they get, or women remaining in a workplace that does not suit their capabilities, for fear they couldn’t do better.
You may sincerely hope and believe that things will change for the better. But by dragging on in such negotiations, you are not only wasting your own time and resources. You are also indicating some very negative things to your environment: that it is legitimate to waste your time. Or that you will go along with particular scenarios, even if they are not in your benefit- basically that you can be taken for a ride.
Why do we fear leaving negotiations so much? Besides the loss of potential gains, we fear the repercussions- we might offend the other person, or dissuade them from engaging with us in the future. It might just grate against our need to be considered “nice”. Some counterparts actively try to pressure us into thinking that is the actual significance of leaving a negotiation. But unless said otherwise, ending a negotiation only means “I find this particular trade-off structure insufficient for me, and do not expect it to change in the near future”.
It does not necessarily mean “this is personal against you”, “I feel the same about all future or potential negotiations with this counterpart”, “I am angry or hurt”, or “I am doing something that is offensive to the other person”. And you should feel free to communicate this.
You are responsible for your own interests first. And by dragging on for whatever reason, you miss the benefits of considering alternative routes to better further your interests and diverting resources towards finding them. You forgo showing you have boundaries, and that they are important enough to be taken into consideration.
How Can I Avoid Leaving Too Late?
Start asking yourself if the benefits to reap out of a negotiation are satisfying enough, and when they are not, start saying “no, thanks”. Here too, find the way that’s comfortable for you, and start small before you announce to your boss you’re quitting your job to pursue your dreams.
But start today!
See you at WtW’s next post (remember- now in a tri-weekly format and translated!)
Founder of Negotiatress