The Golden Rule of Negotiation: Let Them Walk

Last Updated Jul 28, 2009 11:35 AM EDT

A time comes in many a negotiation where you are bargained out. You've given all you can give. The deal is still too expensive. You are ready to walk.

Don't. Let the other guy walk first.

This is the uber golden rule of negotiation, says Anthony Tijan in his Harvard Business Publishing blog post, Four Rules for Effective Negotiations.

"Make the offer you want and let the other side walk if they don't want it. This is not to say to be offensive or to low ball, but rather to be honest, straightforward on what you are willing to do and explain that you understand if it does not work for them and that it is the best you can do."
What I like about this advice is that it brings the negotiation to a clean close from which all parties can walk away with heads held high. The "final" offer is so labeled, each side has explained its position, and there is only one more step to be taken: accept or go home.

Not all negotiations end with a deal, but they all should end with each side better understanding what matters most to the other side. That information will be useful the next time these parties meet.

What's your end-game strategy?

  • Sean Silverthorne

    Sean Silverthorne is the editor of HBS Working Knowledge, which provides a first look at the research and ideas of Harvard Business School faculty. Working Knowledge, which won a Webby award in 2007, currently records 4 million unique visitors a year. He has been with HBS since 2001.

    Silverthorne has 28 years experience in print and online journalism. Before arriving at HBS, he was a senior editor at CNET and executive editor of ZDNET News. While at At Ziff-Davis, Silverthorne also worked on the daily technology TV show The Site, and was a senior editor at PC Week Inside, which chronicled the business of the technology industry. He has held several reporting and editing roles on a variety of newspapers, and was Investor Business Daily's first journalist based in Silicon Valley.