I’ve been doing a lot of negotiating these days, and I keep noticing mistakes people make. Their most common mistake is focusing on what they want when they should be devoting their attention to learning what the other side wants, and how badly. If you can do that without showing your hand, you wind up controlling the process. You can craft a deal that satisfies the other side while getting what’s most important to you.[…]
The initial meeting of the principals is crucial in any negotiation. Most people screw it up by thinking they already know the other side’s position, and so they don’t listen carefully to what their counterpart has to say. They immediately start arguing for what they want. I avoid that pitfall by following my first rule of face-to-face negotiations: No preconceptions. Regardless of what has happened before, I assume I know nothing about what the other side wants.