Don't Cry Over . . .

Everyone strikes a bad deal at one time or another. The key is to learn from your mistakes.
Magazine Contributor
3 min read

This story appears in the December 2003 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Have you ever made a really bad deal? Admit it. We all have. Oh, sure, you thought it was OK at the time. But then you start thinking "How come I didn't ask for this?" "Why didn't I think of that?" Your hindsight becomes a laser beam of self-recrimination: "How could I have been such a blockhead?" "My God, I've been taken. I've been chumped . . . I've been had!"

It may not be taught in any school, but deal-making is a core competency in life- in the business world, where wealth and success are a fetish. Your negotiating ability directly affects your income, your relationships and, ultimately, your station in life. That's why making a bad deal can be so hard to live down. At best, you feel like Jack, standing there with a handful of magic beans, wincing at a torrent of abuse (self-inflicted or otherwise). At worst, a bad deal can destroy your career, your finances and your life. And while your own bad deal may fill you with rage, disbelief and self-doubt, a calmer, more thoughtful analysis would be far more productive.

It's possible you did everything right. Sometimes, bad deals just happen, even to the best-your professionals let you down, the other side slides into a tailspin, or the Great Spirit is simply not with you. If this is the case, you should accept what you can't control. Man plans; God laughs.

You may also be a perfectionist. If there's a penny left on the bargaining table, you feel like a simpering pushover. Don't confuse a "bad" deal with your neurosis. There's nothing easier than second-guessing a deal, since there's only one answer to whether you could have done better: yes.

More often than not, however, and whether or not you're big enough to admit it, you probably had something to do with it. Don't avoid the post-game wrap-up. It's the only way to shave strokes off your score. Ask yourself the tough questions: How did you contribute to the problem? Did you miscommunicate? Did you forget something? What will you do differently next time?

It's important to think deeply and introspectively. Why did you make the mistakes you did? Were you too arrogant to ask for help? Were you too easily cowed by this opponent? Were you too greedy? Did you let things get too personal? If you can, find a good friend to help you debrief.

Whether you ultimately litigate, arbitrate, mediate, renegotiate or simply accept what is, above all, forgive yourself. To be great at anything involves making thousands of mistakes, large and small, along the way. If you're clever, those mistakes will teach you how to make a better deal. If you're wise, those mistakes will teach you how to make a better life.

A speaker and attorney in Los Angeles, Marc Diener is author of Deal Power.

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