Phrases You Should Never Use during a Negotiation
Certain phrases always manage to clank against the ear. The following list covers some expressions that have little place in life, let alone a negotiation.
If you hear one or more of these sentences slip out of your mouth, stop immediately. Laugh about the slip or apologize, but don’t think that blinking yellow caution lights didn’t pop up for your listener when she heard you utter one of these trite, clumsy phrases:
“Trust me.” When trust me replaces specific details, the listener becomes very cautious. If someone says these words to you, ask again for a commitment with specifics. If you must, explain that it’s not a question of trust but an acknowledgment that circumstances change and that the agreement must be enforceable — even if the current negotiators are no longer accessible. You want to secure an agreement so clear that you don’t need to trust the other person.
“I’m going to be honest with you.” Using this phrase, even if it’s true at the time, indicates that you may be making an exception to your normal way of interacting with people. People who reassure you about their honesty in certain situations are probably not very honest in general.
“Take it or leave it.” Presenting a deal with an ultimatum like this is a mistake. Even if the other side accepts what may be a reasonable offer, you probably look like a bully, and the deal leaves them feeling bad about the decision. This hurts you in the long run. So if you’re feeling frustrated and anticipating a refusal, resist proposing an ultimatum. Instead, push the pause button and resume negotiations later.
If you hear this phrase during a negotiation, don’t give in to the temptation to walk out. Instead, try to objectively figure out whether the offer is acceptable based on your goals and limits.
Any kind of slur. Comments about the race, gender, sexual orientation, or national origin of another person are unacceptable. Even an inquiry related to these traits, such as “What kind of a name is that?” offends some people. So steer clear of even the most innocent of references unless the statements are relevant to the negotiation.
Even if you’re with people who are speaking openly about an individual or group, don’t join in. You never know who may be suffering in silence, feeling outnumbered and helpless. Letting an offensive phrase slip out can cost you an otherwise closed deal and peg you forever as a bigot, and this can seriously damage your career long-term.