What kind of Negotiator are you?  Competitive, accommodating, a good compromiser?  Here’s a little exercise I use a lot on my Negotiations courses, designed to help you benchmark yourself against my extensive (Global) norm group of professional businesspeople.

The Honesty Tablet

To get any value from this exercise you must take a metaphorical “honesty tablet” before undertaking it.  If you fake your response, you are only kidding yourself.  Here goes.  What’s coming up is a true life scenario which happened to me in a hotel in Edinburgh.  I’ll tell you what actually happened after you’ve done the exercise.

You’re in this nice hotel in central Edinburgh.  Your company uses the place regularly.  At 3am the fire alarm goes off and you troop outside in your dressing gown and stand around for 30 minutes in the freezing cold.  Back to bed, and you lie awake cursing them.  At 7am you haul yourself out of bed and into the shower, only to find there is no hot water.  So it’s a cold shower and shave.

You are now at reception, checking out.  What, if anything,  do you say to the receptionist about the cold water?  Please think about this and write down your answer.  Listen to this great piece of Radiohead transcribed for piano if you like whilst you’re thinking about it.  It’s one of the most beautiful bits of music I know.


So, welcome back!  What have you got?  The range goes from:  “Feel a bit upset about it but don’t complain as it probably wasn’t their fault” to a more compromising “Tell them I’m annoyed and ask for a voucher to use next time – £50 would be good”, and then up to “Tell them this is utterly unacceptable, a breach of contract in fact, and refuse to pay.”  I even had someone say they wanted a free night this time and a voucher for a free one on a subsequent visit.

In other words, the various Mental Limits which apply here say that some people think this is worth £0 and some see it as worth more like £150.  Imagine if this was a contract renewal and similar Mental Limits were applying.  Scary stuff!  How does your result compare here, and what might it say about your general attitude towards Negotiation and Conflict?

What actually happened?  I asked them what they could do for me, and the receptionist went and got the Duty Manager, who apologised profusely and said: “I imagine you will be expecting us to write off last night’s bill?”  My answer:  “That’ll do nicely.”  My old favourite model: “Seek first to understand, then to be understood” helping to make light of an otherwise potentially high conflict situation.

The thing is, Mental Limits stop us from negotiating as hard as we might otherwise, and if we think we have done a good deal, it’s a good deal in our mind.  Until we meet someone who does a much better deal in the same situation.  We learn these Mental Limits, and they can be developed (or Unlearnt, in fact).

Have you got any great examples of where you found out that you left money on the table?  If so, please share!

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