Negotiate, and Navigate, From Where You Are

One of the classic negotiating mistakes is failing to account for changing circumstances.

By default, when trying to work out way through a negotiation, especially a conflict, we want to go back to where we were ‘before we got into this mess’ (status quo ante bellum, for those of us who like to use the $5 words).  That’s not always a bad thing.  In fact, it was exactly this philosophy, entrenched in the Treaty of Ghent, that allowed Canada and the US to become such strong allies and trading partners after the war of 1812.

While this can be a useful anchoring point, especially when the relationship has value going forward, it can also lead to expensive errors in judgment.

As negotiators, we need to always be aware of the context of our negotiations, and agile enough to adapt as that context changes.  It matters little what I paid for my Florida condo in 2006, it’s worth less now because the context is different.  A personal injury case that might have easily settled 5 years ago for $100,000 could easily be worth ten times that now, based on a few small legal victories along the way to trial.

We look back to where we started to see ‘what’s fair’, when we should be looking at where we are and asking ‘where do we go from here?’.

Don’t fall into the trap of navigating from where you left the dock.  Plot your course from where you are today.  You’ll be surprised at how much easier it’ll be to reach your goal.

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