Make No Concessions

To make concessions is to let go. To give-up.

Don’t do it. And don’t act like you’re doing it when you’re not.

You’ve got something better you can do.

In adversarial negotiations concessions are often made in the face of more powerful claims. It’s often rightly seen as an act of weakness. Even when it’s not done from a position of weakness, it’s often wrongly seen as an act of weakness. So either way, that’s not a message you usually want to convey in an adversarial negotiation.

Not exactly negotiating from one’s source of power. It’s so strange to see it used so often.

Concessions usually are made unilaterally. Yet they often come with an implicit expectation that a concession must be made in return. There’s the unstated assumption that if I’ve made a concession you “owe” me one. The one conceding often can be heard later to say something like “we’ve already made so many concessions to you already it’s time for you to come closer to us.”

Think that by making concessions you can hide-the-ball and not let the other side know what’s really most important to you? Go right ahead. You’ll create an obstacle to trust. You’ll create an adversarial negotiation if it wasn’t one already. And do you really think the other people involved don’t know what’s most important to you? You’re not fooling anybody when you do it. And do you really think you can get what’s most important to you by acting like it’s not most important to you?

You’re giving up something that actually isn’t that important to you, but you’re acting like it is. Then expecting to get something in return when you didn’t ask for it. Then getting upset when you don’t get it. All around, not not a great foundation on which to build a negotiation.

The concession-charade doesn’t build trust in the negotiation relationship – something that’s necessary for any negotiation – adversarial or collaborative.

Sometimes it seems that maybe concessions are thought to be a way of being cooperative without looking cooperative. Or maybe looking cooperative without being cooperative. They aren’t either. Giving-up or giving-in isn’t cooperative – it’s just appeasement.

Collaborative negotiation is about working together toward an agreement that best addresses what’s most important to everyone involved. Concessions don’t do any of that. They’re bad adversarial negotiation tactics. They’re bad collaborative negotiation tactics.

What to do instead?

In negotiations I coach my mediation clients to not make concessions. What to do instead? Make offers of exchanges of value. Always make them conditional:

I want your X; you want my Y. I’ll give you my Y for your X.

When you make offers of exchanges of value, you’re focusing the negotiation on what’s most important to everyone involved. You’re focusing the negotiation on what everybody wants most while not focusing on the things that aren’t as important. That’s what’s necessary to reach an agreement. To get others to agree to a solution that best addresses what’s most important to you they’ve got to think that it also best addresses what’s most important to them.

photo credit: DaveBleasdale via photo pin cc

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