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There are two flavors of expectation. One is the value of the negotiation dynamic itself: fairness. The second involves a specific deal element. We expect that we will be treated fairly in a negotiation. We also may expect some level of service or value for a given price. We all expect a fair offer, and this may be voiced when we hear something we don’t like.


For example, some say, “I expect a fair offer” even if the offer in question was fair, just as a general outburst or possibly as a tactic to make the offeror doubt their offer is indeed fair. Or, we may expect a certain future or performance: “I expect to pay no more than $12 in shipping and handling.”


The expectation of fairness is common and part of dealing, but “fair” is subjective. The more operative question is whether the deal works for your needs. So, when we state our expectation of a fair offer, we must say what criteria it is judged against to make it fair: “If these conditions exist, it will be acceptable.” However, when we use it as a deal element about stating a requirement – “I expect this good or service at this price at this time.” – These expectations may be adjusted simply by specifying objective realities. When an expectation is stated that deals with a requirement and it is not realistic, say so. For example, “Your expectations do not reflect reality. We buy three-month old accounts receivable at 20% not 60%. If there is someone out there doing that, that would be unusual for this industry.” Here we counter with authority to set expectations straight.

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