Everyone negotiates. We do it all the time! We negotiate whenever we want something from someone else, or someone else wants something from us.

I often negotiate with Charlie, my neighbor’s cat. When I open my front door, he likes to run into my house, jump up on my guest bed, and lie down for a nap. Now I must admit that I occasionally let him get away with this. (He’s so cute!) But it’s not OK when I’m leaving for work and I’m running ten minutes late already. So this morning, in order to coax him out of the house, I offered him a handful of kitty treats. Charlie accepted my offer, and went outside to eat. A successful negotiation! I got to leave for work, and Charlie got to eat something tasty. We were both satisfied.

Charlie is an excellent negotiator.
Charlie is an excellent negotiator.

But just because I can negotiate with a cat doesn’t mean that I’m a good negotiator. Negotiation is a skill, and some people are better at it than others. To be a good negotiator, you need to have both knowledge and experience. In addition, according to Harvard Business Essentials, you need to avoid these common negotiation pitfalls:

  • Escalation – Of course, you want to win the negotiation and get what you want. But offering the other side more and more in order to “win” is a mistake. You run the risk of offering more than what’s reasonable or logical.
  • Only Seeing One Side – To be a successful negotiator, you need to consider the other side’s perspective. If you only consider your own point of view, you won’t have a complete or objective understanding of the situation.
  • Unrealistic Expectations – If you go into a negotiation with unrealistic expectations, you’re bound to be disappointed and unsuccessful.
  • Overconfidence – Don’t overestimate your negotiation skills or the strength of your position, or underestimate the other side. It’s a recipe for disaster.
  • Getting Emotional – Try not to get upset or angry. When people get angry, they stop focusing on making a fair deal and start trying to hurt the other side. Both sides can be damaged and nothing is likely to get resolved.


Harvard Business Essentials: Negotiation. (2003). Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press.