True or false - it takes 21 days to form a habit? Sorry, but it’s just not true. The 21-day myth started when the work of a 1960’s plastic surgeon (Dr. Maxwell Maltz) was misquoted, and so it stuck. The reality is it takes much longer, and there are three phases – the honeymoon, the fight through, and finally second nature. In developing negotiation as a habit, we can expect the same phases of getting excited about the benefits, being frustrated when the other side is difficult, and finally where its just the way you do things.
Negotiation normally brings to mind major transactions with customers and suppliers, selling an asset, negotiating a mortgage, or discussing your salary. The reality is that we all negotiate everyday, from what we will have for dinner, to bedtime for children. So if we develop negotiation as a habit in our daily life, its a safe bet to expect that it starts to become the way we approach major home or work negotiations.
Put simply, negotiation is reaching agreement through conversation. While it gets considerably more complicated given the human dimension, the process of negotiation can be summarised as looking at interests rather than positions, separating the person from the problem, considering alternatives (BATNA), taking a problem solving approach, and then trading away what is less important in return for what is important. So next time you are tempted to reach straight for power or authority, take a second to think whether there is a better way to reach agreement by checking your assumptions. Like the 21-day myth, we sometimes get it wrong.