One of the smartest managers I ever worked for did something few others did. He kept better notes at meetings than anyone in the room.  Then, before the meeting ended, he summarized from his notes whatever they had discussed and agreed to.  He followed up in a short time with an email summary to each attendee inviting their comments. When a dispute later emerged about what had been said or settled, his notes and summary tended to prevail.

Agreements are rarely written and signed by the parties in internal negotiations. Written agreements are, of course, common in external dealings. Yet, the problems in both internal and external bargaining are similar. Misunderstandings are common.  People are so busy thinking about what they want to say they don’t listen to what the other is saying.  Words, ideas and responses come in a torrent, too fast to comprehend or integrate fully. Where different technological specialties and expertise are involved, what is said to one may be clear to them but as opaque as a foreign language to the other.  Good notes and frequent summarization of where the parties stand reduce the risk of serious argument later.

We often forget how important good notes can be to a negotiator. Though informal rather than legal, they are nonetheless a source of legitimacy and power.  Every negotiated agreement involves actions to be taken in the future by each side.  Problems often arise.  Good notes help resolve them.

It pays to keep track in writing of the things you do on an ordinary day to help make an agreement work well. Special positive actions on behalf of the other party should not be taken for granted or discounted in value.  Unless you make note of these good deeds they are likely to be forgotten later when the contract or agreement is renegotiated or when a problem arises.  Good notes add strength to your position. They are like money in the bank.

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