What you might not be aware of about your own behavior that undermines your success at negotiating – and what you can do about it.
First, two important concepts for negotiators: self-control and self-awareness, according to authors Cherine G. Soliman, Arnaud Stimec and Nicolas Antheaume:
“Self-control is the ability to refrain from an impulsive behavior. Low self-control, for instance, is the inability to prevent oneself from doing something one acknowledges as inefficient or damaging.” In negotiating, it might be saying something that you regret, either immediately or upon reflection. “Self-awareness refers to the ability to detect and acknowledge one’s feelings or attitudes and the related behaviors. Low-awareness is for instance, the recurrent denial of an observed behavior such as giving in to reduce tension or aggressiveness.”
(Soliman et al.: The Long-Term Impact of Negotiation Training and Teaching Implications, November 2014, Conflict Resolution Quarterly)
Yes, read the quote again: you might be giving away concessions without even realizing it!
To illustrate this point, imagine the presence of anger during negotiating. Depending on the level of your self-control and self-awareness, it might lead to four different combinations of behavior:
In my experience, the denial phase, i.e. low self-control and low self-awareness, is the typical starting point for a novice negotiator or a long-time practitioner without professional guidance. The likely impact on the negotiated outcome is unnecessary concession-making.
Not so surprisingly, this is also a typical pattern of highly cooperative people who are willing to share vulnerable information in the hopes that they can create a bigger pie to satisfy all parties.
Gradually, deliberate practice leads to the effect (suggested by the black arrows in the picture): you reach the state of negotiation proficiency, i.e. high self-control and high self-awareness.
What does it mean, practically? If you’re buying yourself or your team a negotiation training course, don't let a self-defeating behavior work against your best interests. Insist on activities that increase self-awareness (such as online assessments, feedback from peers, observers etc. in comparison with self-evaluation). It might actually be the factor that makes the difference in the very next real-life negotiation.
What if you've got no development budget? It is wrong to deny your own mistakes and wrong not to learn from them. If negotiation training is simply out of the question, boost your negotiation effectiveness by holding post-negotiation sessions. These are meetings with yourself or with your team at which you reflect and share all the good things and the things to do differently next time. Apart from concrete steps to be taken, raising yours or your team’s self-awareness and self-control is an inevitable side effect.