Misconceptions and myths about negotiation abound, just as they do in any trade. Blind belief in several of the main negotiation myths can ultimately harm a negotiation and prevent the process from being successful. Some common myths include the belief that negotiators are born, that they rely on intuition, that they can’t be nice, and that it isn’t possible for everyone in a negotiation to win.
People Are Born Great Negotiators
We’ve all heard this myth, yet it is rarely, or perhaps never, true. The art of negotiation is one that can be learned and is not a skill only a select few are born with. The best negotiators are those who get feedback and practice their skills. Education and social environment can have a great impact on negotiation skills. Formal classes and other kinds of negotiation training can also help skills develop. Even if people have different levels of initial capability when it comes to negotiation, everyone has the potential to become a better negotiator.
Negotiators Rely Solely on Intuition
Negotiators who rely solely on intuition are taking big risks that are unlikely to pay off in the end. The best negotiators walk into negotiations with a plan. Having done their research, they are able to have objective data and/or ideas from independent, expert consultants to help in successful negotiation. This kind of planning means the negotiator has already played out the negotiation scenario in his or her head. A negotiator who plans rather than relies on intuition is better able to counter objections and offer evidence leading to a more desired outcome than the negotiator who simply wings it. Preparation isn’t optional; it is necessary.
Nice Negotiators Finish Last
Another common myth is that to be a successful negotiator, you must be very aggressive and perhaps even mean. This isn’t true in the least. The best negotiators are those who communicate effectively; if you are argumentative and aggressive, people may find it difficult to do business with you. It is often easier for parties to agree with someone they find personable and agreeable. While you don’t want to be too soft and make it easy for one party to have an unfair advantage in the negotiation, you don’t want to be too hard either, as this may cause someone to resist concessions simply because he or she is put off by your personality.
Someone Always Loses in Negotiation
Like the rest of these common myths, the idea that all negotiations end up with a loser in the end is untrue. Not all negotiations are win-lose scenarios. The best negotiations end as win-win situations, where both parties feel as though they’ve come out of it with an agreement they are pleased with. A negotiation is not a game to be won, but rather it is a process both parties engage in to achieve individually desired goals or outcomes.