I learned in grad school that everything is negotiable. Both in theory and in practice, I truly subscribed to this idea too. In fact, I bought into this concept so much that upon making this realization I reviewed my monthly expenses to see what I could negotiate. I even negotiated my grades with my professors a few times. Relational negotiations is such a powerful concept especially when both parties work together towards reaching a mutually beneficial agreement. Imagine if we all handle conflicts like this. Every discourse would be so good for humanity. But of course not everyone acts in good faith. And you shouldn’t be so naive to think so either. This is besides the point because pros know it’s not always about the agreement anyway. Smart negotiators know that it’s better not to have an agreement than reach a poor agreement.
So when do I not engage?
Good question! Below are a few instances when you should not negotiate according to experts:
Walkaway if you run the risk of losing it all
It’s not advisable to negotiate if there is a chance you could lose everything. This is why having a good backup plan or a BATNA (Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement) is always your saving grace. If you don’t have one, find one. Or make a case for one. Otherwise, it’s not worth the discussion.
Walkaway if your gut tells you it’s unethical
If the negotiation process or tactics are so offensive that waiting for the outcome just isn’t worth it. A few years ago interviewed for a position at a digital media firm in Midtown. They are pretty large organization that developed widely used apps. Within ten seconds of my attempted pleasantries with the hiring manager and right before my ass touched the seat she demanded for my salary history. I was taken aback. Not because she asked in the onset but because we haven’t even had a chance to discuss the nuances of the role. When I told her I would much rather discuss the job first before discussing compensation she outright threatened me. She told me that she can find out for herself even if I was not going to share that information. Suffice to say I didn’t continue with the process.
Walkaway if you’re short on time
It’s not good practice to negotiate when you’re under pressure or when you are racing against time. Chances are you are anxious and not thinking straight. When this happens you run the risk of making poor decisions. And you obviously want to avoid that. This is especially important if you know that waiting a little longer or having that extra time can improve your position.
Walkaway if you’re not prepared
You can’t always plan for everything in a negotiation. However, practitioners still emphasize the importance of preparation because it gives you the upper hand and allows you to think ahead of any potential curve balls. Preparation means you fully understand the scope of the problem and are ready to analyze the other party’s offers and counteroffers more efficiently and effectively.
Walkaway if you don’t care
Because why not? Why waste your time and other people’s time if you are not invested in solving the problem. Do yourself a favor and go do something more productive with your time instead.
But beyond all this, everything is negotiable. As you venture into practicing mindful negotiations, keep in mind that it’s more than just about finding an agreement. It’s about finding a valued outcome for yourself and for your negotiating partner (if you care about them at all). But if it’s not working out for you, prepare your exit strategy and walk away.