When Not to Come to Agreement

In negotiation, sometimes it's more important to know when not to agree. There are times when the best agreement is no agreement. Sometimes, walking away and getting your needs met elsewhere is your best strategy. These guidelines will help you determine when you may be better off ending negotiations.

1. Your primary needs are not met. If your basic priorities are not achieved by the proposal, don't agree.

2. You have a better alternative. You should not agree if you can get your interests met by going to another person or organization, doing it on your own, or not doing anything at all.

3. Parties will not fulfill their commitments. Sometimes, parties agree just to get an agreement. Be wary of the fact that an agreement doesn't guarantee action or results. An unwise agreement calls for parties to do things they do not have the ability to do or may not be in their best interest.

4. The consequences and implications worsen the situation. Think through what happens after the agreement is made. Does it really make things better?

5. Third parties will be unhappy. The parties at the table may be satisfied, but there may be others who will create more problems than the agreement is worth. Take into account the negative reaction of individuals away from the table.

Negotiation ultimately involves making choices. One of the most important choices is whether to agree or not to agree. By knowing when not to agree, you will be more competent and confident in knowing when to agree.

Five Times When Not to Agree in the Moment

There are times when not agreeing at that moment may prevent a bad deal and lay the groundwork for a better one. It does not mean you will not ever come to an agreement, but that you may be rushing into an unwise one.

1. Your gut says, "Wait!" You will likely face situations where you feel torn between yearning for closure and a gnawing sensation inside holding you back. Listen to your instinct and take your time. Thinking things through now will help avoid needless remorse later.

2. A significantly better deal is available to both sides. One party will make an offer that looks tempting, but it may be too early to agree because all interests have not yet been studied. By learning more about each party's underlying needs, you may be able to fashion a more optimal agreement.

3. A party does not feel fairly treated. Perhaps a party is unsure whether it's a fair deal. Doing a bit more research or fact-finding to get other precedents, standards and benchmarks will help parties feel satisfied with the agreement.

4. Other linked issues are still unsettled. You do not want to get into a hassle over related issues that have not yet been agreed to. Consider making the agreement tentative and contingent on the whole agreement being acceptable.

5. You want to "sleep" on it. When an agreement means significant changes, a career change, a major contract, taking a step back and reflecting can help individuals be "emotionally" ready. A professional contract negotiator I know would often say to a counterpart, "Why don't we both sleep on it, before we take the plunge."

Jumping to closure too quickly means parties leave value on the table or were not truly ready to agree. By identifying the cause of the concern, you will be able to allay fears and craft better agreements, ultimately creating better working relationships.

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