Leave a Little Wiggle Room

Beverly Inman-Ebel

I agree with Vincent that we negotiate every day with our co-workers, customers, bosses, family and friends. I have been involved in numerous formal negotiations where everyone at the table realized that we were there to negotiate. My role has usually been one as a guide for my clients. Based upon this experience, I have some opinions as to what can make or break a deal.

Be prepared. Never under-estimate the available options. I have found that when people are not prepared, they tend to rely more on emotion than facts. That makes sense since they did not come prepared with the facts. So do your homework. Heck, do their homework. Your preparation is full circle.

Know what you want, what you have to have, and the difference between the two. I recently mediated a dispute for a client. One party had a long list of wants. When I asked what they were willing to give up, they gave me a "deer in the headlights" stare. Seldom will you get it all. Think it through before you get there. That way you can appear to be flexible and still remain within your larger plan.

Never narrow it down to one issue. Bring up that issue early in the conversation to explore where people stand on it. At the beginning, people are aware there is give and take. If you wait until the end, perhaps they feel they have given enough. Like most things that involve communication, negotiations require proper timing.

Leave emotions out of the picture. Just last month I was listening to a person whose sole purpose was to punish the other party. Requesting a letter of apology may be reasonable. Dictating what that letter will say is likely going overboard.

All of these observations have to do with wiggle room. I just returned from out of state where I visited my newborn twin niece and nephew. They sure did wiggle a lot. Since we start out so flexible, it would be good for us to retain the ability to move, to see the other person’s side, or at least be willing to listen to it while striving to understand. Don’t be so tight in a negotiation. Leave room for a wiggle. Prepare. Listen. Solve. Wiggle. Live your dreams!

Beverly Inman-Ebel is founder and CEO of TLC, Talk Listen Communicate, LLC
Copyright 2007. All Rights Reserved.

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