“Misperception Can Kill Your Negotiations – Here Is How To Stop It” – Negotiation Insight

“Misperception – the source of confusion.” -Greg Williams, The Master Negotiator & Body Language Expert (click to Tweet)

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“Misperception Can Kill Your Negotiations

Here Is How To Stop It”

People don’t realize they’re always negotiating.

When was the last time misperceptions created challenges for you? If it was during negotiations (you’re always negotiating), did it inject unnecessary angst into the process? Everyone acts off of their perceptions. And when they misperceive someone’s intent, that can lead to troubling circumstances. During negotiations, in turn, that can lead to unnecessary challenges. Here is how to stop that from plaguing your negotiation efforts.   

Listen To Seek Understanding

Have you ever observed two people talking, and you knew one lacked full involvement in the conversation? Some people classify that as half-listening. I’m sure at some point in your life, that occurred to you. You may have been the culprit in that situation.

Half-listening can be the gateway that leads to misperception. During negotiations, negotiators can tune out what their counterpart is saying. They may do so because they are contemplating a response or considering how they will use their information to improve their negotiation position.

Regardless of the reason for tuning out, to stop misperceptions from occurring, practice active listening.

In this case, active listening entails:

a.) Observing the word choices used to represent one’s thoughts.

Some words may invoke similar meanings and thoughts. But they may lack the specificity of one’s intent if misperceived. For example, the words investment does not convey the same sentiment as cost. Thus, one’s intention becomes altered if the receiving person translates one word for another in their perception.

b.) Notice the body language and nonverbal signals associated with someone’s words.

That person’s gestures, tone, and pace of their pronouncements will add more meaning to their words. Observing such gestures and tonality will allow you to reduce the degree that misperception occurs in your talks.

c.) Be attuned to your feelings and the emotional state conveyed through words.

You may sense something and not know its source. It may be occurring in your subconscious and not reach your state of consciousness. Nevertheless, when you have intuition, it would be beneficial for you to pay attention to it. Seek to clarify the discussion to be sure there is no misperception of one’s intent.  

d.) Paraphrase to make sure everyone understands one another.

Misperception is the cause of some negotiations getting mired in impasses. You can prevent that from occurring by being 100% sure that there is a mutual understanding of your information exchange.

Listen More/Talk Less

A potential sign of nervousness is excessive talking. And if you can get the opposing negotiator to engage in excessive talking during the negotiation, that will accrue to your benefit. Plus, as the opposition involves themselves in conversation, they can lend clarification to statements they may have made that created uncertainty for you. In addition, the more the other negotiator speaks, the more information he will give you to improve your negotiation position.

Let someone talk while the thought is fresh in their mind. Then, you can ask clarifying questions to encourage the other negotiator to continue his chitchatting. But you should also be aware of why he is talking excessively. Meaning, you should attempt through your questioning of him why he is nervous. There can be valuable negotiation information that you can use in that discovery.

Memorialize Your Understanding

There is nothing like the written word to crystalize someone’s intent. Thus, sometimes, putting someone’s words into writing will further clarify that person’s intent. Plus, memorializing the exchanges during a negotiation serves as the guidelines that the two will abide by per their later agreement. And as both of you are marking your understanding of the other’s intent, misperceptions may surface. If they do, that will allow you to correct them before they harm your negotiations.

Remove Your Blind Spots

Be aware of your prejudices. They can clog your perception and be the hidden source of your misperceptions. Sometimes, without realizing the thought process in which we engage, our prejudices shadow our perspective. It causes us to prejudge the other negotiator’s intent.

Worse, we may help him speed up his pronouncements by finishing his statements. Doing that can cause you to lose valuable information about that person’s thoughts because he never completed it. You did that for him. That can lead to misperception, which can be the source that kills a negotiation. 

Understand Biases

Biases shades perspectives. And that makes it more challenging to receive nonconforming information. So, to rid your blind spots, you must understand biases. You must know yours, and those of the other negotiator’s too. His will also dictate how he interacts with you.

To address the bias issue, be in tune with your beliefs and thoughts about the person/people with whom you will be negotiating and why you have those beliefs. Assess the views you believe the other negotiator possesses. Be mindful not to overly project your ideas about his biases such that it shades your perspective of him. Be middle of the road if your thoughts vary too broadly. 

Misperceptions can occur due to the misperceiving of one’s meaning. That can stem from the perception one creates about the intent of another person. Do not allow that to hamper your negotiations. And to prevent that from occurring, keep your biases in check.  


Sometimes things can be staring right at you. But you will miss them if your mind is not ready to perceive them. So, to stop misperception from killing your negotiations, keep an open mind.

Listen to seek understanding. Listen more, talk less. Memorialize your perspective of the other negotiator’s words and intent. Remove your blind spots to keep them from impairing your perception while being mindful of the biases that may plague the negotiation.

Once you have a firm grasp on those aspects of controlling misperceptions, you will have greater control of what occurs during your negotiations. And everything will be right with the world.

Remember, you’re always negotiating!

Listen to Greg’s podcast at https://c-suitenetwork.com/radio/shows/greg-williams-the-master-negotiator-and-body-language-expert-podcast/

After reading this article, what are you thinking? I’d like to know. Reach me at Greg@TheMasterNegotiator.com

To receive Greg’s free “Negotiation Tip of the Week” and the “Negotiation Insight,” click here https://themasternegotiator.com/greg-williams/blog

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