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Why are you negotiating? This question might sound dumb, but it’s really important. Ask yourself, why am I negotiating? Are you

doing it for yourself or for your company or your family? How much is your ego involved?

Why ask these questions? You need to look in the mirror and think hard about just how important this particular negotiation is. Will the outcome affect your life? If so, how and where? Why? Let’s break this down into a few different areas and look at them and their importance.

NEGOTIATING FOR YOU ALONE: Be alert for the situation where the process is more important than the outcome. For example, if you are negotiating for a car for yourself, are you prepared to walk away if you feel like you are being taken advantage of, even if it means never getting what you were negotiating for? If there’s only one dealership where you can buy a car you want and you walk away from the negotiation, you don’t have another dealership to turn to.

NEGOTIATING FOR YOUR COMPANY: If you are not as successful as you desire in the negotiation, will your company be hurt by your skills or lack thereof? How important is this meeting? Who else might suffer if you get only part or none of what you are negotiating for?

NEGOTIATING FOR YOUR FAMILY: Let’s say you are negotiating to buy a new home and the sellers won’t budge from their price. As a result, you are going to walk away from the deal. How does this affect your family? Does walking away mean your kids won’t start at a new school at the beginning of the school year? Or is it only spring, giving you a few months to find the right home at the right price?

NEGOTIATING FOR YOUR EGO: Are you here to win at all costs, no matter what, just so you feel good and feel that thrill of victory? What will be the outcome if you win, lose, or draw? Are you really accom-plishing something, or are you just feeding your ego? Think about why you need to win.

Here are some ways to assess the situation.

SET GOALS AND LIMITS: You must be able to walk away from the table. Pretend that you are in Las Vegas, you have set a gambling limit of $200, and you have just lost it all. Do you go to the window and mortgage your house, or do you just say, “Hey, that was fun. No big deal. I guess it’s time to have a $2.99 steak.”

ARE YOU PREPARED TO LOSE: Here you have to ask yourself, what did I lose, if anything? If you did lose, what will it affect? You can view this situation like bidding at an auction? You might really want that Monet painting or John Lennon’s limousine, but if someone outbids you or the price is just too high to begin with, what have you really lost? Life could have been fun with that item, but it isn’t everything. We all buy what we want and sometimes forget that we don’t need it.

IF YOU WIN, NOW WHAT?: OK, your intense negotiation just landed you a new car for the price that you wanted to pay. Or you got the job that was posted, plus the extra salary you insisted on. Now what?

This situation reminds me of “The Heartbreak Kid,” a movie from the 1970s. On his honeymoon, Charles Grodin meets and falls in love (so he thinks) with Cybill Shepherd. He spends the rest of the movie pursuing her and her family’s blessing of the relationship. This movie is all about wanting something, going after it at all costs, attaining that goal, and then asking whether it was the goal that was so important or whether it was the challenge of getting it. As the movie ends, Charles Grodin is at his second wedding reception, and you can tell he is pondering, “Now what?” He has attained his goal, and he still isn’t fulfilled.

Don’t just look at the goal. Ask yourself, What will the attainment of the goal bring?

LONG-TERM AND SHORT-TERM BENEFITS: This is related to the previous point. Now that Grodin achieved his goal, what are the long-term benefits? Does he really want to be married to Shepherd? If he does, is she the right woman forever? Or was the short-term benefit the thrill of the chase, and now the long-term benefit is a marriage from hell?

It’s important to think about the consequences of the outcome of your negotiation, to play out what you will derive both in the short and the long term. Then you can decide if this is what you really want. If the benefits match the goals, perfect. If not, you must rethink why you are at the table.

WHAT WILL HAPPEN TO THE RELATIONSHIP: Will your relationship with the other person be intact when the negotiation is over? If it will remain intact, fine. If not, is that the outcome you want? Do you really want to be Attila the Hun? Could this negotiation come back to haunt you and hurt down the road?

Many people forget that life is what you leave behind. It’s how you affect your family and friends, and it’s how people remember you. Do you want to be remembered as a fair person with integrity, or as someone who got what he wanted at all costs, with no regard for other people? In other words, do you really want to be ruthless? Think about whether you want “take no prisoners” on your tombstone.

Hal Becker is a nationally known speaker on sales and customer service. He is the author of numerous business books including two national bestsellers “Can I Have 5 Minutes Of Your Time?” and “Lip Service.” Hal’s newest book on sales is titled “Ultimate Sales Book.” He can be reached at


Letters, commentaries and opinions appearing in the Cleveland Jewish News do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Cleveland Jewish Publication Company, its board, officers or staff.

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