Negotiation Tip Commitment

Dot the I’s and Cross the T’s in Your Commitments

You’ve nearly finished negotiating. You have worked hard, and you are about to sign an agreement that both you and the other side are happy with. You have reached the commitment stage of the negotiation. At this point, there are two pitfalls to avoid.

Danger 1: Lack of Clarity

The first is agreeing to commitments that are unclear. There must be a true meeting of the minds for the commitment to be clear. If this is lacking, there is the very real risk that each will begin implementing their individual interpretation of the agreement, and accuse the other of breaching the agreement. This can damage the relationship and trust on which the agreement was based in the first place. The old adage – an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure – certainly applies.

Thus, before you commit, make sure that both you and your counterpart understand the agreement in the same way. A good way to do this is to ask the other side to summarize their understanding of the agreement. Another way is to write down the agreement, and allow each side to review it before signing. A third way is to discuss how you would handle hypothetical cases under the agreement, using specific examples.

Danger 2: Unrealistic Expectations

The second danger to avoid is reaching an agreement that is unrealistic. People will often commit to agreements that they cannot fulfill. This may be done intentionally or in good faith. Either way, an agreement that is not kept is worse than no agreement at all. In order to make sure the agreement is realistic, it pays to discuss implementation with the other side.

As you counterpart specific questions, such as “what is your authority to bind your organization?” or “who needs to buy in to the agreement for it to go forward?” or “what are the steps we need to take once we commit to make sure the agreement is fulfilled?” to determine that the agreement is realistic. If you have doubts, the best time to raise them is before the agreement is signed. Raising doubts may be uncomfortable, but it’s better to voice them sooner than later and avoid further complications.