Business Negotiation June 27, 2012

Don't Panic At Deadlines

A negotiation book aimed at teaching the Japanese how to negotiate with Americans includes the phrase, "“It is a given that the American negotiator will make their flight!” If this sentence applies to you, it is a whole course. Americans are known the world over as an "instant gratification" culture...

A negotiation book aimed at teaching the Japanese how to negotiate with Americans includes the phrase, "“It is a given that the American negotiator will make their flight!”

If this sentence applies to you, it is a whole course.

Americans are known the world over as an "instant gratification" culture. We want to make the big deal, fast, and still leave in time to catch our flight.

The thing is, most large negotiation deals don't work that way.  They sometimes take months and months of discussion to reach a both-win outcome.

However, there seems to be a focus on urgency in negotiation. The best negotiators are often described because they make the number and they make the deadline.

Yet, the truth is, deadlines are negotiable. And very rarely will a deal fall apart because terms weren't finalized in a predetermined amount of time.

There are certain traits which separate good negotiators from bad ones. You might be interested in my findings from a study I did a few years ago, where I examined the final concession patterns of people negotiating under a deadline.

In early studies at the University of Southern California, my analysis showed a large disparity between the final concession patterns of people who were mathematically identified as winners and losers in the test groups.  The losers gave up to 2 ½ times as much as the winners did. From the beginning, they were also likely to give in sooner, and to give larger concessions right away.

A good negotiator must ask:

  •       Is this deadline working for me or against me?

  •       Can I make this deadline elastic?

  •       Have I accepted the other party’s deadline as absolute?


Are deadlines necessary?  Absolutely!  Are they negotiable?  Absolutely!  Are some organizational deadlines padded?  You know it!  Wouldn’t it be a shame to negotiate a poor agreement because of a false or negotiable deadline?

Don’t panic at deadline!
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