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The DIY Dilemma

Published: May 03 , 2021
Author: Brian Buck

If you weren’t a DIY’er before the pandemic, you likely are one now. Over the past year, many of us started all sorts of DIY projects, from baking our own bread to remodeling our own homes. We’ve become such DIY’ers that home improvement and arts & crafts retail company stock prices are up 20% to 50% during that time. Even the price of wood has increased 130% during the pandemic. That said, I was eager to see how many people were also doing their own negotiating. The answer surprised me.

You might be thinking, “Doesn’t everyone do their own negotiating?” The short answer is “no.” We actually use proxies all the time to do our negotiating. Depending on the transaction, we’ll use real estate agents, brokers, or attorneys (and Scotwork too!) to negotiate on our behalf. And how many times have you relied on a friend or loved one to negotiate for you? I can’t tell you how many times I get called to negotiate car purchases!

In our annual Buyer/Seller Survey, we asked, “Which is easier: negotiating a deal on behalf of someone else or negotiating a deal for yourself?” A little more than 50% of sellers selected “yourself” while nearly 60% of buyers selected “on behalf of someone else.” This makes sense, considering that most professional buyers are negotiating on behalf of someone else. I believe they also know what we know: The more emotionally attached you are to a negotiation, the more difficult the negotiation can be.

When we have an emotional attachment to a negotiation, we’re more likely to be fixated on one specific outcome or become extremely partial to our positions. Not only does emotional attachment limit our creativity and flexibility, but it also increases our likelihood of being more competitive than we might have to be. In other words, it deprives us of so many useful tools and tactics with which to negotiate a favorable end result.

Here’s where the DIY dilemma occurs. We also asked, “On a deal that matters a lot to you, would you rather negotiate yourself or have someone else negotiate for you?” Surprisingly, both buyers and sellers selected “do it myself” — over 92%! 

Even though the majority of those who negotiate for a living claim that it’s easier to negotiate on behalf of someone else, they would rather DIY the negotiation when it matters most to them. That’s the dilemma, because we’re most emotionally attached — and, therefore, at our most vulnerable — when it matters most to us.

Instead of trying to convince you not to negotiate on your own behalf, let me give you 5 things that you can do when you’re emotionally attached:

  • Prepare, prepare, prepare. Preparation will become your most important tool during your negotiation. Before the emotions kick in and the heat gets turned up, put pen to paper and prepare for all possible scenarios. Even plan what you’re going to say and the questions you’re going to ask. This will help you to minimize surprises that can trigger emotional reactions. 
  • Get an alternative perspective. Go talk with someone detached from the negotiation. Share your approach and strategy, and ask for feedback. But don’t listen for validation; rather, listen for perspective. Seek out alternative approaches or different ways to look at the situation. This will help you when the other side presents an alternative reality to yours.
  • Plan on taking many breaks. Give yourself time and space to think throughout the negotiation. Don’t try to get it all done at once. Even a five-minute bathroom break can get you away from the negotiating table long enough to give your rational brain the ability to process the conversation.
  • Seek to understand. The more emotional we are, the more defensive we can become. If you receive pushback, don’t defend your position; instead, seek to understand why you’re getting that pushback. Having a conversation about the disagreement doesn’t constitute agreement, but that understanding will help you to adjust and be more flexible.
  • Bring a partner. If possible, bring someone along who can listen and monitor emotions. If emotions begin to rise, have your partner ask a question or provide a summary of what’s been said thus far. This will help take the pressure off of you and keep emotions in check.

Truth be told, I’m one of the 92-percenters. If the deal matters a lot to me, I want to be at the table. However, I’ve done this long enough to know that the more I care about the outcome, the more help I’m going to need.



We Can Help You Combat Emotional Attachment at the Negotiating Table.

Have you found yourself emotionally attached to a negotiation, becoming fixated on one specific outcome or extremely partial to your positions? Has that attachment, in turn, led to less-than-favorable end results? We can help! Drawing on 45 years of real-world negotiating experience, we’ll assist you with getting better deals, saving time, and creating value for all involved — not to mention preserving and even strengthening relationships. Let us partner you with one of our advisers, ensuring that you’ve got the broadest view of your deal.


Talk to one of our experts today.


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About the author:

Brian Buck
Sure, we could whip up a snappy bio about Brian’s experience as an entrepreneur, business owner, and Fortune 500 executive. While we’re at it, we could go on for an afternoon about his 20 years in marketing and advertising, developing brilliant consumer-engagement strategies for the likes of Google, Amazon, Samsung, Virgin Mobile, Microsoft, and Sony. But knowing Brian, he’d rather we not. Instead, he’d likely ask us to focus on something else — namely, other people ...

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“I never saw it coming.” That’s what I remember thinking when it was all said and done. I remember having a lively debate about the topic. Then I remember frustration and, before I knew it, it was over. My client had just asked me to do them a “favor.” Only it wasn’t a favor — it was a significant scope change. I put up a rigorous argument for why they couldn’t change the scope, but as they got more frustrated with me for not simply acquiescing, they finally said, “I’m the client — do it.” That’s when I realized I’d made a terrible mistake, but I was going to be ready for it next time.

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