What Can’t You Not Do?

Over on her Ask a Manager blog, Alison Green today discussed those personality traits which force you into certain behaviors, resulting in career choices that are almost imperatives.  It’s an interesting thought – are there things that you MUST do to satisfy your own internal itch?  But then I started thinking about how that would affect the world of negotiation and it ties back into a conversation thread that’s been started many times: are certain people more predisposed to being better negotiators?  And, on the flip side, are there people who shouldn’t, under any circumstances, be the negotiator for your firm/organization/self?

Typical negotiation trainers (Karrass, for example) predicate their training materials on the belief that anyone can learn how to negotiate.  Even my favorite professional negotiator, Herb Cohen promises in his book that “You, too, can negotiate anything!”.  But don’t let the razzle-dazzle fool you.  The honest truth is that while everyone can learn techniques to increase their negotiation skills, not everyone can be a good negotiator.

“Wait!” you yell at me – “YOU offer negotiation training, too.  Aren’t you just taking people’s money like everyone else?”  Woah.  I’m not rendering judgment on the value of the service offered by negotiation trainers… lots of the material learned in these courses is excellent stuff.  Heck, even bad negotiators can improve by learning my Five Fundamental Skills for Effective Negotiation.  What I’m saying is that a prospective negotiator needs to be introspective enough to know whether they’re a good negotiator (and sometimes, it’s even case-specific).

So then, what makes someone NOT a good negotiator?  Well, as I just said, it can sometimes be case-specific – I, for example, shouldn’t negotiate the purchase of my own house or car… I’m too emotionally invested in the result.  But more generically, bad negotiators are:

  • ignorant (choosing to be without knowledge – would rather shoot from the hip)
  • overly-emotional (it’s one thing to be “disappointed” in a result… another to be “sad”)
  • hot-tempered (NEVER lose your cool – in fact, keeping cool when the other side is purposefully pushing your buttons is a great skill to have)
  • impatient (negotiations can take a LOT of time and you have to be willing to wait things out)
  • know-it-alls (the flip-side of ignorance is just as dangerous)

What am I saying, then, if you have these tendencies?  Well – either alter your personality (which proves quite hard for the bulk of the population) or find someone else to do the negotiating.  Remember that bullying someone (which is what a lot of these traits manifest as during a negotiation) won’t get you what you desire and might leave you worse off than when you started.

Oh – you don’t like the implication that everyone can’t be a great negotiator?  Blast me in the comments.

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