Curb Your Enthusiasm: How Overconfidence Can Kill the Deal (And What To Do About It)

You’ve just left the negotiation table, and you know it went well – it’s in the bag! Except it’s not, and later it turns out that the deal is dead. Confidence is a critical quality in strong negotiators, but too much can cloud your judgment. Consider the steps below to rein it in and ensure your confidence is an asset, not a liability.

Embrace the unknown. Sure, you’re a great negotiator, you did your research, and you’re feeling completely prepared for your negotiation. This may be true, but try thinking objectively – a smart negotiator accepts that uncertainty will always be a fundamental part of any negotiation. Acknowledge that no matter your skill, you can never perfectly predict an outcome. You’ll be more willing to propose (and accept) mutually beneficial compromises, and you’ll be a better negotiator for it.

Play devil’s advocate. Before a difficult negotiation, find someone whose opinion you trust (it doesn’t have to be a colleague) and get their opinion on your approach. When you’re in the thick of researching for an upcoming meeting, you might be in too deep to realize something obvious. An outside observer could provide some critical advice, and maybe deflate your ego a bit (all in the interest of personal growth, of course).

Accept your faults. A healthy amount of humility would do us all some good. Before any negotiation, be sure to look not only for things that can work to your advantage; take the time to look into factors that could work against you and use it as an opportunity to come up with solutions. Do you have a tendency to talk over your opponent, causing them to get aggravated and raise their voice? Are you prone to stick too firmly to your convictions, bringing the meeting to a halt because no one will budge? Take a hard look at your negotiating tactics and prepare some resolutions before your next meeting. You may even find a way to work a fault to your advantage.

Confidence is the bread and butter of any negotiator – after all, how could you get anything done without it? None of us are perfect, however, and you’d be wise to use some of these techniques if you find that your deals keep hitting roadblocks. Confidence is only one of the tools in your arsenal, and you should hone it just as you would any other skill.