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Training the Enemy

Brian Buck
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© Scotwork North America

Congrats General! You got everything you wanted and obliterated the competition. As you celebrate your success, just know that your competition is re-grouping and waiting to pulverize you at the next battle. Cheers!

That’s what happens every time we leave the negotiation table. We train the other party to negotiate with us based on their experience with us. If they know we are pushovers, then their demands will increase. If they find us overly aggressive, then they may be more defensive and put less and less on the table to negotiate. Odds are, many of you have unwillingly trained your worst nightmares.

The skilled negotiator is adept at getting everything that is important to them in a manner that strengthens relationships and sets them up for success every time they come to the negotiation table. The skilled negotiator is mindful of the other party at all times. Their demands. Their tactics. Their “hot buttons”. The skilled negotiator will use all that information to their advantage to train the other party to behave in a way that creates the best outcome for the skilled negotiator.

Next time you negotiate with that nightmare, ask yourself, “how did we get here?” Examine when you first had to cave in on a demand or when you had to give something away. You’ll start to recognize how you contributed to creating this nightmare. We’re not saying it’s all your fault, but let’s be honest, you are probably partly to blame. In order to change their behaviors, you need to change yours. You can start by either creating incentives for the other to behave differently or sanctions for behaving badly. Start with the epicenter and work from there.

From Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, “Excellence…is not an act, but a habit.” Changing the other party’s behavior may not happen overnight, but it certainly won’t change till you change how you behave at the negotiating table.

Author: Brian Buck

Illustration: Ben Risbeck

Brian Buck
More by Brian Buck:
Walking Away
Negotiation Swagger
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