Almost everybody going into negotiation has some target or goal in mind. It may be based on reality or merely a hope for the best. It may be based on what the other party can live with or be far beyond their capacity to say “Yes.” The validity of the estimated target will, in the end, be determined by the give and take of the process, the balance of power and each side’s perception of it, as well as the bargaining skill of those involved.
Targets in a negotiator’s head are not set in concrete. They rise or fall with the tides of success or failure based upon what is said and done at the bargaining table. Goals are set. Feedback follows. Every demand, concession, threat, delay, fact, explanation, deadline, or remark has an effect on the picture in a negotiator’s head. The target moves up and down with each work and each new development.
How expectations change is important to those who negotiate and is summarized below:
- Every concession can serve to raise the other side’s expectations. Every “No” has the opposite effect. Small concessions, reluctantly and slowly given, are not likely to raise expectations very high. Large concessions do.
- It takes a number of small failures to move expectations down. Saying “No” just once is not enough. It may take many “No’s” to convince the other that you mean it. That’s why persistence and repeating your viewpoint helps move the other to your position.
- Research shows that those who ask for more in negotiation generally achieve more but they also suffer greater risk of deadlock and possible relationship risk. Good backup for your position and an open discussion of reason reduces those risks.