A Lesson in Negotiation on the First Tee

There is no such thing as a friendly game of golf in my family. Wagers are placed, the pressure is on, and trash talk is guaranteed. This past weekend, my dad and I set out for one of our many rounds together. As we approached the first tee, we began to lay out the basics: the amount of the wager and how many strokes each of us would be given.

Unfortunately for me, I did most of the talking. I told him he would get 3 or 4 strokes – he, of course, selected the latter. Unknowingly, I had already made mistakes in the negotiation. It hurts to think about it. As much as I have learned and read about negotiation techniques, I can still get schooled by the old man.

After getting crushed on the front 9, complaining as much as possible, and calling my dad a cheater (and every other name in the book), the errors in my first tee tactics became apparent and a discussion on negotiation ensued. Here’s what I was reminded and what mistakes I won’t be making again any time soon:

1. Don’t Expect the Other Party to be 100% Transparent

Golf is a gentleman’s game, right? Wrong. I played with my dad a few weeks ago and had an idea of what his handicap was, so I decided to give him the same number of strokes that he had received a few weeks previously. Little did I know that he had found his game recently and his handicap had dropped by 2 strokes. To some it may seem insignificant, but for our matches 2 might as well be 20. Once I learned of his recent handicap reduction, I furiously asked why he wouldn't have told me that beforehand, to which he simply responded, "You didn't ask." This leads to the next lesson that could have stopped all of this from happening.

2. Preparation is Key

Had I taken the time to do a little upfront investigation into where my Dad's handicap stood going into that round of golf, I would have been aware of his decreased handicap and would have known to give him less strokes. Failing to prepare can prove to be detrimental to your side of the negotiation. Do not enter a negotiation with assumptions of what is right and fair based on

past experiences. Each negotiation is different, and your preparation should reflect that. We've all heard the phrase, "If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail." That could not ring truer in the art of negotiating.

3. Emotions are Always a Factor

Emotions are always a factor, even in a business decision. Whether its ego or fear, the best we can do is not let those emotions cloud our better judgement. In my case on the golf course, it was ego. I believed I was far better than I was and confidently gave my father those shots thinking I had the upper hand. Allowing my ego to drive my negotiation cost me that day on the golf course.

4. Let the Other Party do the Talking, a.k.a. LISTEN

My dad let me tell him how many strokes I would give him. He listened as I blabbered on confidently. If I let him do the talking, or engaged in more back and forth, maybe the conversation would have led to him revealing his new handicap. In negotiation, let the other party be the one to say too much and reveal what they are willing to give or pay.

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