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Nice People Finish First in Negotiation

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Everyone has a different approach to negotiations — some of these strategies may be more aggressive than others. However, is there a best way to approach your negotiations? Will aggression or abrasiveness lead to better outcomes, or should you be taking a gentler approach? Is it ever acceptable to verbally attack your counterpart or their interests, or will this always lead to issues, as you work toward an eventual compromise?

The attitude you hold during negotiations can make an impact on the outcome. If you’re the “nice guy,” believe it or not, you’re actually considerably more likely to succeed, as a negotiator. Many individuals view the world of negotiations as cutthroat or inherently aggressive — this isn’t actually the case.

While there’s no shortage of mean or aggressive negotiators, these are rarely the strongest individuals you’ll face. Surprisingly, the most skilled negotiation partners tend to be the “nice guy” of the conversation.

However, why is this the case? Here are just some of the reasons why nice people finish first, during negotiations.

Nice Negotiators Receive More Valuable Information

In order to negotiate successfully, it’s important that you and your counterpart are maintaining strong, clear communication. One of the most fundamental components of communication lies in the information you’re receiving and providing to your partner. During effective communication, key pieces of information should be clearly communicated, from one negotiator to the other.

As such, if your counterpart is uncomfortable providing you with some of this key intel, you’re more likely to face issues with communication. When there are gaps in the information you’re receiving, miscommunication is more likely to occur — this will make it far more strenuous to reach a compromise that all parties are satisfied with.

When you’re nice, your counterpart is going to feel more comfortable opening up and expressing their thoughts to you. If your negative attitude causes your counterpart to become closed off, no one is going to benefit — this includes your negotiation partner, but also yourself.

Negotiating Nicely Builds Better Relationships

In a similar vein to the previous point, when you negotiate nicely, you’re working to build a stronger relationship with your counterpart. Much of the time, the negotiations you’re currently working through aren’t going to be a one-time event — it’s not uncommon that you’ll find yourself negotiating with that same party again in the future. This is why it’s so crucial to build positive relationships, rather than cause grudges or hostility.

Whenever you have a poor relationship with your counterpart, it’s going to be more difficult to effectively negotiate with them. Additionally, if you’re rude, your current counterpart might not want to deal with you anymore — this could cause future relationships to dissolve before they even have an opportunity to form.

Keep in mind that, in order to build relationships, you don’t need to become spineless. It’s entirely possible to be an aggressive negotiator, without actually adopting an aggressive attitude. You can fight to reach an agreement that benefits your interests, without devolving into rudeness or uncalled-for jabs at your counterpart. Remain respectful to your negotiation partner, but also to yourself and your own interests.

Negotiating Nicely Earns You the Benefit of the Doubt

It’s always beneficial to earn the benefit of the doubt, during a round of negotiations. For instance, many potential counterparts will value trustworthiness and honesty, above most other factors. If you’re unprofessional and treat your counterpart rudely, it’s far less likely that they will be willing to trust you. Instead, they are likely to grow suspicious toward you and your motivations.

If your counterpart receives two bids, where one is slightly more favorable than the other, having the benefit of the doubt could work in your benefit. For instance, maybe the bid you offered was slightly less favorable, compared to the other party’s. However, you’ve shown your counterpart nothing but kindness and pleasant interactions, each time you’ve negotiated with them.

On the other hand, maybe the slightly better bid was offered by a mean-spirited party, who your counterpart doesn’t enjoy working with. Even if your bid wasn’t the best, your niceness could lead to that bid being accepted.

In the world of negotiating, it’s misguided to believe that callous aggression will work to your benefit. In truth, it’s incredibly rare that this will be the case. Although you believe that you’re being more forceful and convincing with your negotiations, this is more likely to damage your argument, rather than help it. No one enjoys negotiating with a mean-spirited party, and this will typically only lead to stilted communication and damaged relationships, down the line.

As a negotiator, it’s entirely true that nice people finish first — at least, they certainly negotiate better.

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