However, Leigh Thompson, a professor of management and organizations at Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management, has a great tip for negotiating: Don't take one for the team.
By that she means don't give in early during negotiations with another party to "maintain good relations and, ideally, secure future business with that party." For example, someone who did, in a negotiation simulation she had recently observed, "gave up a ton of value," she says, while the other party made outsize gains that weren't even necessary. The buyer was willing to pay far more for the product.
All together now: "The nice guy finished last."
From my own experience in negotiations and coaching people, the real issue wasn't that the guy was nice so much as he probably wanted to be thought of as nice. Many people dislike confrontation and want to feel accepted. However, that doesn't help you or your company. There can be an enormous gulf between being reasonable in a negotiation, particularly in the context of developing an ongoing relationship with the other side, and a complete collapse. You can't be reasonable unless you're reasonable toward yourself, as well.
Thompson offers four tips to consider before you allow yourself to utterly capitulate and channel your inner Neville Chamberlain.
1. Remember that people have short memories.
You are sure that if the other side likes you, a long-term relationship will probably develop. There are two problems with that. First, one that Thompson mentions: People don't remember in the future the effort you made in the past (if the same people, even, are at the table representing the same organization). Your work to build credit has been for nothing. The second is that you've built the expectation of capitulation. Is that something you want to live with over the long run?
2. Exhibit firm flexibility.
If you've prepared correctly, you know which issues are low priority for you and which are higher. Make concessions on low-priority items, not high.
3. Take one step at a time.
Make a series of smaller concessions rather than a single larger one. In advance, break your low-priority issues into multiple pieces so you can dole things out. You get more mileage out of the gesture, and you're less likely to overstep what you need to do. Thompson has a great way of phrasing this: "As I tell my negotiation students, step up or down the concession ladder rung by rung. Don't jump off, or else you might break both legs."
4. Implement a quid pro quo tactic.
Unless you're receiving something when you give a thing away, you're unilaterally giving in for no reason. A negotiation is like a dance, with moves and countermoves. If the other side doesn't shift at all, they're expecting you to capitulate, which is never a good plan. Record concessions and track the patterns so you don't find you've given away the store without getting anything in return.