Is This Negotiation Mistake Sabotaging Your Business Deals?

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Donald Trump | Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

You can read up on the art of striking deals. Donald Trump is famous for his supposed deal-making abilities, which he even outlined in his best-selling book. And throughout the years, lots of time and effort and has been spent looking at the strategies and tactics involved in negotiation. People have made careers from it, while others – having little to no negotiation skill whatsoever – have hamstrung their own personal and professional growth by accepting less than ideal terms.

No matter how great you are at negotiating, and how good of a deal you’re able to strike, there’s no guarantee that the entire thing won’t unravel on you. In fact, according to some new research, there’s one big mistake that leads to the eventual demise of most agreements, and not even Trump himself is immune from it.

In short, it’s the distinct lack of follow-through; particularly after you’ve used certain tactics to cement a deal in the first place.

For example, if you have managed to strong-arm an opponent into making an agreement – be it a prospective employer, business colleague, etc. – using certain psychological ploys like threats and intimidation, you may be dooming the deal to failure. That’s because you’re employing those tactics only for the sake of making the deal, and when it comes time to deliver, relationships between parties can fray.

Researchers are calling this “the Blowback Effect,” and a study examining the phenomenon was recently published in the Journal of Applied Psychology (the details of which are outlined by the British Psychological Association). The “blowback” descriptor refers to the resulting anger and negativity that spawns from the realization that intimidation tactics were used only to strike a deal in the first place. And those feelings can eventually lead to the collapse of the entire agreement.

“When emotions are conveyed either by a computer program or by a confederate, results appear to affirm a long-standing notion that feigning anger is an effective bargaining tactic,” the study says. “We hypothesize this tactic actually jeopardizes post-negotiation deal implementation and subsequent exchange. Four studies directly test both tactical and strategic consequences of emotional misrepresentation. False representations of anger generated little tactical benefit but produced considerable and persistent strategic disadvantage.”

That’s when the “blowback” kicks in: “This disadvantage is because of an effect we call ‘blowback.’ A negotiator’s misrepresented anger creates an action-reaction cycle that results in genuine anger and diminishes trust in both the negotiator and counterpart.”

One of the most public ways we’re seeing the behavior described in this study play out is in the way that presidential candidate Donald Trump is portraying himself to American voters. Trump – who, as previously mentioned, has made a name for himself as a successful businessman and expert negotiator – uses some very obvious strategic actions to gain attention and smash his opponents. As many of us have witnessed, by merely calling his opponents names, bullying protesters, and generally acting boorish, Trump has effectively put himself up as the favorite for the GOP nomination.

There are evidently a lot of people who love the guy, and his behavior.

But, if this study is any indication, Trump’s methods are pretty much guaranteeing that his prospective presidency will end in disaster. Trump is negotiating right now – he’s negotiating and trying to strike a deal with the voters, to elect him. He’s doing so by eliciting anger, and using intimidation tactics to do so. The problem will come down the road, when the relationship between the voters and his administration fray.

This is all theoretical, of course, but it’s a great example of what the “Blowback Effect” is describing. None of it may happen, but the science is there.

This is also an important lesson to utilize in your own comings and goings. We all end up in negotiations, all the time. Whether we’re trying to make a purchase, trying to win the affections of someone, or lobbying our boss for a raise or promotion, we’re engaging in all sorts of strategic and tactical deal-making. And many people, perhaps unknowingly, use anger and bullying methods to get what they want.

As we’re learning, that method has consequences if you’re not careful. You’re planting seeds of resentment, that will most likely sprout at some point. When they do, the entire deal becomes compromised. So, negotiate wisely, and make sure you can follow through. Intimidation may work in the short-term, but given enough time, things can blow up in your face.

Follow Sam on Facebook and Twitter @SliceOfGinger

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