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Harvard negotiation expert shares the most common mistake people make when asking for what they want

No matter what you're negotiating — a raise, the price of a new car or a business deal — there's going to be some haggling involved. But one of the most common mistakes people make during a negotiation is what Harvard Business School professor Deepak Malhotra calls "mindless haggling."

"The mistake we often make is to take a rich, complex negotiation and turn it into a series of haggles," the expert said at the iConic conference in New York City. "Try to break the habit of going one issue at a time, trying to get resolution on that issue and then moving onto the next thing."

Instead, "negotiate multiple interests simultaneously."

Deepak Malhotra: a Harvard Business School professor and expert on the art of negotiation.
David A. Grogan | CNBC
Deepak Malhotra: a Harvard Business School professor and expert on the art of negotiation.

This is an effective strategy for a couple of reasons. As Malhotra writes in his book "Negotiating the Impossible": "With multiple issues in the mix during the same discussion, it becomes easier for negotiators to make wise trades across issues — you can fight for what you care about more in exchange for giving up what the other side values more."

Plus, "when you negotiate one issue at a time," he writes, "people will often fight equally hard for whatever happens to be on the table at that time, making it difficult to find out what each side really cares about most."

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In general, with multiple issues on the table, both sides are more likely to get at least a few "wins."

So next time you find yourself in a negotiation, when it comes time to make an offer, don't just make one, he told the audience at the iConic Conference: "Instead, make two or three offers at the same time."

For example, "instead of saying, 'my offer is this price with this royalty rate with these terms,' give them two or three full packages," he continued, "'We can do option A, we can do option B or we can do option C.'"

Ultimately, "if you show more flexibility in the deal structure, all of a sudden there's more degrees of freedom for them to be able to give you what you need to be able to say 'yes' happily. … To put it a different way, the more currencies you allow someone to pay you in, the more likely you get paid."

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