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How Leaders Can Win from a Negotiating Loss

Experienced leaders know not all negotiations will result in getting 100 percent of what they want. In fact, “it’s far more common for negotiations to fail than to work out,” says sociologist Guy Olivier Faure. Remaining positive and taking a bigger picture point of view to the process and outcome can reap positive results that were not anticipated.

“The best negotiators will find value and benefits in unexpected places, the Harvard Business Review notes.

A key component for leaders to successfully manage through a failed negotiation is to understand they are often role models for the rest of their team. Being honest and upfront about mistakes can go a very long way to burnishing a leader’s reputation. The problem for some leaders after a negotiating defeat is they take it personally and their egos take a hit. Following a loss, “negotiators often end up demonizing the other side.” Refrain from doing that. Remember it’s not personal.

Leaders set the tone and they should, first and foremost, not panic when a negotiation’s results are less than optimal. “Take a deep breath and think about how to contain your losses.” Also, what seems monumental to one person may not be as important to other people. “Don’t assume you lost face. It’s like that old saying: ‘You wouldn’t care so much about what other people think if you knew how little they think about you.’”

To be sure, there are times where “you live and die by what you negotiate.” This is particularly true for startups, which is why MIT, Harvard University and Tufts University have teamed up to create a course that teaches negotiation skills and strategies. Still, the most impactful leaders know immediate setbacks have the potential to set up future wins. After all, there will always be more negotiations to be had. “Though you may not have done as well as you’d like, tomorrow is another day. Stay focused on the long term. This is just one of many battles.”