Whether you're negotiating your salary at a new job, asking for a raise in pay, or overseeing a business deal, negotiation is a skill that every professional needs — but it's no easy feat.
It can take a long time to reach an agreement no matter what you're negotiating for, and, ultimately, you might not even get what you want. That's why it's important to make sure you do everything the right way. Even the smallest mistakes can cost you success.
Want to become a negotiating pro? Molly Fletcher, consultant and author of "A Winner’s Guide to Negotiating: How Conversation Gets Deals Done" (McGraw-Hill, 2014) shared these five negotiating don'ts.
1. Don't make assumptions. The key to a successful negotiation is being prepared, and that means a lot more than just knowing numbers and facts.
"Failing to prepare is preparing to fail," Fletcher said. "Preparation means gathering and understanding the hard data — for example, your comparables — but it also means having 360-degree awareness."
This means that you need to know who the decision maker is, and what the other party's needs, values, hopes and fears are, Fletcher said. It also means not assuming that anything is non-negotiable ahead of time.
"Gather as much data as you can in advance and be prepared to ask strong diagnostic questions to gain clarity," she said. "There is rarely a clear roadmap within a negotiation."
The more prepared you are, Fletcher said, the better you'll be able to navigate the negotiation. [Why Nervous Negotiators Have an Edge ]
2. Don't rush through it. Negotiations take time, especially if you want them to go smoothly. Take the time to establish a real relationship with the other party, Fletcher advised.
"Share a little piece of personal information that signals your openness and desire for connection," she said. "Doing so can shift a negotiation from an adversarial battle to a productive conversation."
And don't be afraid to build in pauses, as they can help everyone regain perspective and remove undue emotions, Fletcher said.
"A negotiation doesn't have to happen all at once," she said.
3. Don't take anything personally. Fletcher noted that it can be easy to let your emotions get the better of you during a negotiation, especially if it's something that affects you. But watch out — getting too emotional will hurt your productivity, she said.
Her advice for making it through unscathed?
"Challenge yourself to turn moments where you feel attacked and defensive into moments of curiosity where you can gain feedback," Fletcher said. "Emotion can easily be used against you in a negotiation."
Fletcher also advised negotiators to be aware of their emotional triggers and know how to pull back when they feel things shifting in the wrong direction.
4. Don't accept a bad deal. Negotiating is a long, tiring and stressful process, Fletcher said. It can be easy to settle, but agreeing to a deal just to get a deal isn't good, no matter what side you're on.
"It's important to remember that a deal isn't necessarily better than no deal," she said. "That can be discouraging when you have invested time and energy into getting a deal done, but it's important to have that clarity."
Fletcher said that you should understand going into the negotiation exactly what you're willing to give up and what you aren't.
"Ask yourself: What does success look like? At what point am I comfortable walking away?" she said.
Ultimately, not making a deal should always be an option.
5. Don't over-negotiate. If you're lucky enough to have the upper hand during the negotiation, don't take advantage of it too much, Fletcher said. Think about the consequences of over-negotiating beforehand, she said. You might get what you want, but at what price?
"Don't put yourself in a position where you can't go back to a relationship because you overleveraged," Fletcher said. "Recognize that hopefully this is a relationship and a conversation that will continue over time."
Originally published on Business News Daily.