October 30, 2012

When I teach continuing legal education courses on Effective Legal Negotiation, I am amazed by two significant negotiation myths. The first is the claim by many older attorneys that they must be proficient bargainers since they have been doing it for twenty or twenty-five years. If this was all it took, I would be on the senior pro golf tour! Golf and negotiating are actually a lot alike. Both are experiential activities. You can practice one for many years and not improve. You can read about the theory of both and never become more adept. Individuals who hope to become skilled negotiators (or golfers) have to combine theory with practice. They have to understand the factors possessed by adroit negotiators, and learn how to employ those factors when they negotiate.

The second myth concerns the claim that persons must be successful bargainers, because they always get what they want when they negotiate. People who always get what they want when they bargain are the least effective negotiators. There is only one way to always get what you want when you negotiate – don’t want anything. You will generally get what you want and be most pleased, until you take a course like mine where you learn how poorly you are doing compared to others working on the same exercises. If you always get what you want when you negotiate, raise your goals! The most proficient bargainers frequently come up short, due to their elevated aspiration levels.