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How to kill your negotiation advantage

5 min read


One of the most fundamental rules of effective negotiating is to maintain emotional neutrality. Being emotionally neutral means emptying your mind of all past or future thoughts, and simply and calmly trying to stay present in the moment.

Emotions have no place in a system of negotiation that’s based on gaining as much information as possible about the other side, before and during the meeting, and then creating a vision that positions you and your proposal as the best solution to their problem.

Being in the present moment enables you to ask smart questions and really listen to their answers and observe them. If you are preoccupied with emotions based in the past (“I failed the last time I tried this” or “My last client loved this approach”) or in the future (“What if they don’t go for this?” or “This is going to be such a triumph!”), then you’ll be unable to effectively see and hear and respond to the other party in real time and to build your case based on real information you’re gathering right now. Instead, you vision will be clouded by emotions.

Granted, advanced meditation masters spend years learning how to “be here now.” It’s not an easy state to be in all the time. But for the purposes of navigating through any type of business transaction — whether it’s trying to land a big contract, win over a new client or persuade employees to adopt a new change strategy — it’s important to learn how to be unemotional.

The emotion that’s most problematic in business negotiations is neediness. That’s because neediness is the Mr. Potato Head of emotions. It has a way of camouflaging itself behind a variety of different behaviors and identities. But once we learn to recognize this insidious advantage killer, we get better at quickly returning to a state of equilibrium. What’s needed in any negotiation is a state of calmness characterized by a simple mantra: I don’t need this.

And you really don’t. You need food and water. You don’t need this sale or agreement. The sooner you learn how to completely let go of need, the better you’ll be at winning the best deal for your side.

Here are eight behaviors neediness hides behind to sabotage your advantage:


You may think you’re persuading, but what you’re really doing is begging. Pleading for just 10 minutes of their time or asking if they’d listen to one more idea merely signals to the other party that you’re not in the driver’s seat. They are.

Being formal

Some people use formal address ostensibly as a sign of courtesy, but it has a way of making you seem aloof, even slightly superior. The other party will interpret this as insecurity. Calling someone “Mr.” after he’s already given you his first name, for example, takes you down a notch in the power hierarchy, even if you meant it respectfully.

Spilling the beans

Disclosing too much information prematurely and talking too much or at an inappropriate time shows need. The winner in negotiations lets the other party talk more and answers questions with questions — who, what, when, where, why or how.

Being too upbeat

We all like positive people, but in a business setting, an overly enthusiastic and excited person has the same dulling effect on the other party as a pushy salesman. When you express excitement, you give the party across the table the advantage. The winner is the one who stays calm and remains focused and present in every moment.

Prepping them before meeting

Leaving a voice mail message with a large amount of important information is a sign of severe need — likewise with mail or e-mail. The subconscious message when we dump critical information without a meeting first is: “I’m desperate for this meeting.”

Making up your mind

Another sign of need is pretending to hear what the other party is saying when that little voice inside your head has already made up your mind. Close-mindedness is caused when we unconsciously lack confidence in our position and feel the need to and defend it. Set aside biases and preconceived notions about the other party and their position; keep your mind open and genuinely curious.

Tricking them into closing

Trying to tie up loose ends prematurely or get the other party to agree with you is a behavior that shows need more quickly and decisively and catastrophically than any other behavior. You can’t force a decision. If you are negotiating correctly, the other party will invite you to close.

Talking loud, fast and high

When emotions run hot and heavy in negotiations, speaking too loudly, too quickly and in a high-pitched voice is a sure sign of need. While needy negotiators raise their voices, negotiators who simply “want” lower theirs.

Jim Camp is the founder and CEO of the Camp Negotiation Institute, a negotiation training organization. He is a blogger at and author of the best-sellers “Start with No: The Negotiating Tools that the Pros Don’t Want You to Know” and “NO: The Only System of Negotiation You Need for Work or Home.” Learn more at