Negotiation tip: Don’t leave anything to ambiguity

I just read How to create good outcomes when negotiating by Aaron Harris which has seven good tips aimed primarily at entrepreneurs. Number three is the best:

Do not leave anything to ambiguity – Turns out this is one of the hardest things to do, especially in “friendly” negotiations with investors you know or friends you might be hiring. Don’t assume that something you think is implied is agreed upon. Every point that you negotiate should be made explicitly. 

I highlight this because few people do it well. As Aaron writes it is a hard thing to do. Quick execution demands that the key points be discussed early and agreed in detail. The challenge comes when agreement has been reached in principle and the negotiators feel a sense of achievement and then reluctant to discuss detail which might undermine the agreement and detract from the achievement.

However, as we know, the devil is in the detail, and it often turns out that when the detail is discussed there is no agreement after all, or, worse that one party has changed their minds and takes an extreme position on the detail to recover their position. Discovering that a negotiation isn’t finished after all wastes time and undermines relationships.

So I try to avoid feeling good about a negotiation until the detail is nailed down and to discuss as much detail as possible as early as possible.