The Negotiator Magazine

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How You Can Avoid Being Exploited In Negotiations

By Marty Latz

Do nice negotiators tend to finish last — or “lose” more often — in their negotiations?

And if so, how can they protect themselves from this tendency and be more effective?

This is a central dilemma for many nice negotiators. When faced with an aggressive and competitive negotiator, should they try to compete back or use their naturally more cooperative approach?

Let me start by dispelling the myth that a cooperative approach leads to losing more often in all their negotiations. In fact, a more cooperative approach will often be more effective than a no-holds-barred competitive approach.

This especially is true over the long term in:

1. Negotiations between parties who want a future relationship. For instance, between family members and/or business partners.

2. In situations involving non-zero-sum issues, where more for one side is not necessarily less for the other, and where a creative approach will help both sides expand the pie.

Time for caution

However, there is a type of negotiation in which the cooperative approach often will put the user on the losing end of a win-lose deal. And it will be win-lose, not win-win.

What negotiations are those and what can cooperative negotiators do to avoid being exploited?

Overall, naturally cooperative negotiators need to be especially wary in situations in which:

1. Their counterparts don’t really care about a future relationship between the parties. For example, if you are buying a used car and the salesperson appears to be your friend, but really starts playing good cop/bad cop or using pressure tactics like imposing short deadlines.

2. Zero-sum issues dominate the agenda. When your counterpart is selling his company, wants to retire on the proceeds, and only cares about maximizing his all-cash sale price.

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August 2005