Sep 01, 2014

When Not to Negotiate

ImpasseKnowing when not to negotiate is just as important as knowing how to negotiate. Being able to suppress your desire to “win” and keep your eye on your end objective can be a tough skill to cultivate. There are situations, however, where it just doesn’t make any sense to delve down into the details and try to sway the results. Below are some of these:

  •  If the effort (costs) is greater than the potential gain, you end up squandering resources, such as your time and theirs. Sure, you might get a good deal, but is the cost v. reward really acceptable?
  • When situations (cultural norms, etc.) dictate against negotiation, don’t negotiate. In the US, such situations include haggling at the grocery store in contrast to at a farmer’s market. In some countries, taxi fare may be negotiable while in others it is not.
  • If the potential harm to your relationship outweighs the possible return, you win the negotiation “battle” but end up losing the “war” over the long term.
  • When even attempting to haggle would send a message other than the one you want, negotiation isn’t a good choice. An example of this is the potential to be seen as “too greedy” or “not interested in the overall value” being offered. This is one of those times when you have to look at the possible reward versus risk. You have basically three choices: You can decide it’s worth the risk and just go forward to negotiate better deal details; you could try to change the way the message comes across so as to minimize potential adverse perception; or you can decide it’s not the right time and the risk of the message going awry is too high.
  • If your bargaining position (often known as your BATNA – Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement) is horrid and it’s well known, a change of tactics might be more in order, focusing on more long term. This might allow you to accept what is there but in such a way that you get consideration in later dealings.
  • When your position is so strong that even the other side’s best possible offer isn’t enough, negotiation won’t take you where you want to go. These are the times when you quickly realize there really is no Zone Of Possible Agreement (ZOPA). They can’t come up or down far enough to meet you. Although you might be tempted to try to work out some sort of “win/win” arrangement, it often isn’t in your best interest.

Although you can always try to negotiate on anything, it doesn’t necessarily mean you should. Knowing when to walk away, when to negotiate, and when to accept a deal flat out are important skills to work on. Keeping the “big picture” (the relationship, the context/situation and your alternatives) in mind is often the difference between being a successful negotiator versus just “winning” a negotiation on occasion.

If you have some examples/stories of times when not to get down into a negotiation, either from learning first hand or from another, we’d love to have you share them! One of our most enjoyable interactions is learning from the myriad situations folks encounter in both their business and regular lives.

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