People are too hard on themselves.  Research shows that they want to impress not only those they represent but those who bargain for the other side.  This works against them.  In striving to look good to others, they often become less assertive than they should and end with poor agreements.

I would like to propose a “Negotiator’s Bill of Rights.”  Its purpose is to help negotiators feel more comfortable in situations that normally threaten their self-esteem and cause them to retreat rather than advance their viewpoint.  The seven amendments of the “Negotiator’s Bill of Rights,” taken together, tell you to not take yourself too seriously in negotiation.  If you accept the fact that you’re not perfect, you’ll do better.

“The First Amendment”-You Have a Right Not to Understand

     In negotiation, too much happens too quickly for anyone to understand all of it.  The other party can be counted on to say things that are confusing and to present numbers and evidence that are not clear or accurate.  They use supporting arguments for their positions that are often vaguely illogical and usually self-serving.

To absorb and analyze all that is happening, you have to be quick thinking and take lots of time.  The trouble is that few of us are as brilliant as we would like to be or have the time to process what is going on at the table.  If we are to achieve the best deal possible, we must determine what the other side really means and what to do about it under the pressure of the moment.  Negotiation is in many ways the most demanding work we do in business.  Too much happens too fast.

So what is to be done?  The person who has enough courage to say, “I don’t understand,” until they do will do better.  Their persistence will give them a better understanding of the situation and, in my opinion, win them respect for their self-assurance.

You have a right to not understand, and, if the other party’s explanation doesn’t clarify the matter, you have a right to ask the question over and over again.  I know it takes courage to repeat your questions, but it pays to do so.  In negotiation as in life, being somewhat dumb is often smart.

We will continue our discussion of the “Negotiator’s Bill of Rights” in the next blogs.

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