A frequent question that I ask participants, “What do you understand by negotiation?” generates varied answers. In my interactions with participants who join my webinars and workshops, I also often hear beliefs about negotiation that are widely different from the views of most negotiation trainers or practitioners.
We all negotiate daily, both personally and professionally. Negotiation is all around us. We have a certain understanding of what negotiation is and how important it is in our lives. This understanding arises from 1) experiences we have had, 2) observing others conduct negotiations, and 3) hearing from others’ experiences. However, people often develop or hear negotiation myths that stay at the back of their minds. Moreso, a prior failure could contribute to a strong belief in a myth. Believing these myths can lead to biases affecting how people view and conduct negotiations. In this article, I present seven myths that strongly affect people’s opinions and their negotiation approaches.
Myth 1 – Negotiation is a contest
In my workshops, participants sometimes mention “proving their point” or “achieving a win” as their negotiation objective. The most popular search platform we use translates negotiation from English to Hindi as “achieving a win.” However, this is generally a myth in negotiations. It is not a contest. The objective in a negotiation should be to collaborate with the other party or parties to create meaningful solutions that benefit both or all parties. This is where open conversations and creative solutions to make the negotiation beneficial for both or all parties come into play.
Myth 2 – Strong negotiators are born
A common myth is that strong negotiators are born with the skills. The good news is that anyone can learn negotiation skills at any point in life. People are born with strong abilities to learn new skills and deal with situations. These abilities help them understand the required strategies to deal with negotiations effectively. This implies that anyone can become a strong negotiator.
Myth 3: Negotiation is about the price or amount
If a negotiation involves a numerical value (amount, days, price, etc.), it often becomes the primary focus of discussion. How often do people walk into a negotiation and start discussing the price or fees right away? However, the price, amount, or monetary value are not always the primary criteria as many believe. There are other interests that people want to achieve in their negotiations that might take precedence over the monetary value. For example, a friend wanted to ensure he succeeded in his salary negotiation. Upon probing further, I understood that one of his primary interests in interviewing for the role was to be able to relocate to another country. In this case, the salary would not be the main criterion. He would be happy to accomplish his vital interest of relocation.
Myth 4 – Being human does not play a role in negotiations
Most people do not associate negotiation with connecting with the other person or building relationships. This is not what generally comes to mind. However, as we mostly deal with humans in our negotiation, it is vital to develop strong connections with the other party in a negotiation. Understanding the differences and gaining their trust by demonstrating empathy helps achieve the best results in most negotiations. Most negotiations lead to a long-term association, and building connection(s) early becomes critical for a strong relationship.
Myth 5 – Getting a result is key in the negotiation
In most cases, negotiations need to be concluded with a result. However, it is a misbelief. Not all negotiations need to end with a result. There are often instances where a result might not be effective. In these circumstances, parties in the negotiation should not be compelled to make a decision. The phrases “buyer’s remorse” and “winner’s curse” highlight those scenarios where a decision was made in haste or compulsion that the parties might not be satisfied or happy about. In such circumstances, it is vital to take a step back to think further if the deal is warranted. Parties might need to walk away from making a decision.
Myth 6 – Gender plays a role in negotiating success
The impact of gender bias in negotiations is widely prevalent. A course participant made a clarificatory remark, “Do you think a female will usually lose in a negotiation?” This is a notion that many people believe to be true. Furthermore, this might be a bias many women carry into a negotiation. However, this is certainly not the case. Female negotiators are equally adept (and probably more in some situations) at negotiating than their male counterparts. Women can learn strategies and implement them the same way men do with adequate preparation and practice. This aligns with the clarification stated under myth 2 that anyone can become a better negotiator.
Myth 7 – People’s personality negatively impacts their negotiations
The final myth I would like to share is that people’s personality adversely impacts their negotiations. While it might be true that people have their dominant personalities, and they approach negotiations accordingly, their personality might not adversely affect their negotiation if they can adapt their behaviour to the situation. Awareness of their personality and understanding of strategies could help them deal with the situations and circumstances effectively.
Most people carry these biases into their negotiations. This would result in a weaker position even before the negotiation process begins. It is important to be consciously aware of these myths and deal with them in the best possible manner to ensure that they don’t hamper one’s ability to achieve desired outcomes in a negotiation.
~ Anuj Jagannathan, CEO, Propelurs Consulting