Red flags. Warning signs. Flashing lights. Shrieking Alarms. Any time you are negotiating and you realize you're making one of the following mistakes STOP ... take a deep breath ... and collect your thoughts. You may be on the slippery slope to a really poor agreement.

Mistake #1 Wanting Something Too Much

If you give the impression that your life depends on getting that job, or car, or house, or business deal, you are in trouble. Once your counterpart gets a hint of your desperation, you're dead. Remember "the person who cares least about the outcome always gets the best deal."

Mistake #2 Believing Your Counterpart Has All The Power

This is rarely, if ever, true. Remember, all parties want something, or they wouldn't be at the bargaining table. Ask yourself, "Why are they negotiating with me?"

Mistake #3 Failing To Recognize Your Own Strengths

Always try to determine your negotiating strength before you sit down at the bargaining table. The key to assessing your strengths and weaknesses is to know where you stand. Information of this kind is the true power in any negotiation.

Mistake #4 Getting Hung Up On One Issue

This is called fixed-mind negotiating. When our counterpart uses this approach it's usually the old "red-herring". When we fall into this pattern it is usually a "pet-peeve". In any event, virtually no negotiation involves one and only one issue. If you think yours does ... you are making a big mistake.

Mistake #5 Failing to See More Than One Option

Seldom do negotiations break down to only one option. There are almost always several choices of action. Creativity is the key to avoiding the "one-option" mistake.

Mistake #6 Adopting A Win-Lose Mentality

Mutual benefit is the name of the game when the Pros negotiate. If both parties are not happy, then performance becomes the problem. Anyone can shake hands on a deal. Performance only follows if benefit is derived. Otherwise, "unilateral renegotiation" is the result. Not Good!

Mistake #7 Too Much Grinding

Negotiation is a skill and an art. Understanding and using tactics is relatively simple. The real distinction between the Pro and the amateur is the judgment call to end the give-and-take and proceed to performance ... that is the art.

Mistake #8 Short Term Thinking

Some negotiators go for immediate payoffs, rather than seeking a long-term relationship. Long-term doesn't necessarily mean over a lifetime. It can show up later in the same negotiation session. Be careful about grinding someone down on one point. They will get you back on another issue.

Mistake #9 Accepting Opinions, Feelings and Statements As Facts

"Our client would never agree to a proposal such as this" ... "We don't feel we can pay more than $1,000 for your product" ... "Our budget doesn't provide for an additional installation fee". An opinion, a feeling, a statement ... None are facts. Don't be fooled.

Mistake #10 Accepting Firm Positions

"This is our final offer." Everyone who has any level of experience has said this ... and then made another offer. Don't buy it!

Mistake #11 Believing That Having More Authority Gives You More Negotiating Power

It is quite convenient to be able to say "I'd love to be able to work with you on these figures, Mr. Buyer. But all our prices are determined at our headquarters in Boise, Idaho. I'm afraid nothing short of a coup is going to change them."

Everyone makes mistakes. The value of becoming a student of the art of negotiation is that most of us can reduce the frequency of our mistakes and increase the frequency of optimum returns. With a little diligence and practice anyone who is committed can Negotiate Like The Pros.


As a California Criminal Trial Lawyer with 28 years of courtroom experience, JOHN PATRICK DOLAN has handled everything from traffic tickets to death penalty murder cases. Dolan is a recognized California State Bar Certified Specialist in Criminal Law and a true courtroom veteran. He is AV (highest) Martindale-Hubbell rated.

As an author, JOHN PATRICK DOLAN has written twelve, best-selling books, including his classic Negotiate like the Pros?. He is a recognized international authority on negotiation and conflict resolution. And, just to show that he does not take himself too seriously, he is also the co-author of the wildly popular Lawyer's Joke Book?.

A communications veteran, John Patrick Dolan is a radio broadcaster and television legal news analyst appearing frequently on Fox News Channel, MSNBC, and Court TV. He has also been honored by the National Speakers Association as a member of the Professional Speakers Hall of Fame.

In addition to his professional legal experience, John Patrick Dolan serves as CEO of LawTalk? MCLE, Inc., a continuing legal education company.

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