High expectations are often conflated with the returns we gain from a deal or tactics like making a completely crazy opening bid in an attempt to reestablish the middle ground well above your real value. In practice, these are actually rooted in low expectations of your own ability to rightly negotiate on your own terms.
Tactics aside—we know how problematic they are—the concept of high expectations has almost become taboo. Setting your expectations too high is self-defeating, right? Sure, if you’re setting completely unrealistic expectations like “I know my company is worth a million dollars, but I’m going to get five million for it.” If that’s your tact, you’ll definitely fail. There’s an important difference between setting unrealistic, unreasonable expectations, and having high expectations.
Having high expectations is an exercise in self-belief and legitimate optimism. It’s about having the faith in yourself and your approach that you will achieve exactly what you want out of negotiations. High expectations aren’t external attempts to manipulate outcomes. They don’t come from that too familiar place of scarcity and fear. When we’re in a state of CDE—Clarity, Detachment, and Equilibrium—high expectations are reasonable and realistic.
What do high expectations really do for us though? Inevitably, something will change once negotiations get going and we’ll have to adjust our expectations. That’s only if we let expectations become reduced to the material terms of our deals. But the great negotiator doesn’t do that. Expectations set the tone. When you enter into negotiations with high expectations and you own those expectations fully, you go in with a certain energy that communicates confidence, that changes the way you interact with your counterpart and increases your chances of .
This isn’t just power-positive jargon. It’s supported by an observable phenomenon called the Pygmalion Effect. It posits that higher expectations lead to higher performance. Using schools as a promising environment to test this phenomenon, the Rosenthal-Jacobson study upheld the Pygmalion hypothesis that reality can be positively or negatively influenced by expectations—those we have of ourselves, but also those that others have for us. Expectations become self-fulfilling prophecies.
Our mindset and how we carry ourselves entering negotiations matters. Having the right mindset changes our body language, and body language represents the majority of how we communicate. Realizing this will make your negotiations easier. When we have high, reasonable expectations that we own, we are eliminating the risk of our body language, tonality, and micro-facial expressions betraying us.
Still, how do we combat the temptation to react to the flow of negotiations and compromise our high expectations? It can be even more ruinous to enter a deal with utmost confidence only to let your counterpart break you down and watch the confidence slowly leave you. From there, your position is in serious jeopardy.
Having distance from the moment to recognize this is happening can be invaluable. Once you’re able to slow down, you’re able to use that moment to understand that losing a grip on your expectations and feeling your confidence wane are signals of being out of Equilibrium. Return to what got you here. Get back to your CDE, stay connected to your powerful context, do what it takes to get to your truth, and always be in integrity and remain true to yourself. If you do these things when you feel negotiations slipping the wrong way, you can regain a strong hold on your high expectations and become a great negotiator.
Everyone has a path to becoming a great, authentic negotiator. Not everyone is willing to do what it takes to become the person they need to in order to achieve the negotiation success they want. If it’s a path you’re prepared to walk, take my Authentic Negotiating Success Quiz for a look at the road ahead: Click Here