If there is one thing you can count on in negotiation it is that last-minute hitches will arise. The negotiation so close to closure will show signs of unraveling before it is signed.

Why are last minute hitches and how you handle them so important to those who negotiate in the workplace? It is because such hitches add enormous stress to the negotiating process as closing approaches. People respond to stress at the bargaining table by making mistakes, missing nuances and omitting important details. Experiments confirm that even experienced negotiators make larger concessions than usual as talks move to conclusion.

Negotiators who anticipate last-minute hitches are less likely to be stress by them or fearful that the desired agreement will drift away. They recognize that as final agreement gets closer, works and phrases take on different meanings. They define duties, obligations and performance standards in specific rather than general ways. Suddenly, both parties at the table know that the words they choose define exactly who does what, and when, and how actual performance will be measured. Potential problems become visible as details are discussed and settled. These last-minute hitches and their resolution determine whether the final agreement will work or fall apart.

Last-minute hitches, in my view, are natural and beneficial to reaching lasting and prudent agreements. They should be accepted by both sides as a necessary and positive part of the negotiating process; they should not, as is often done, be a reason for accusing the other side for going back on their word.

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