Wrong words that can ruin business negotiations

This is a guest post by Steve Brown about how some words can me misinterpreted when used inappropriately during business negotiations.

Words affect people’s perceptions and that’s a proven fact. As much as we want to stay professional in the business environment, sometimes we snap. Certain words, especially if they’re being used consistently, have a negative effect on our personalities. What’s even worse is that sometimes people may misinterpret their opponent’s terms and phrases. Of course they can do that, particularly if you’re not being clear enough with your allegations. Confusion is often triggered when demands and requirements are not clearly emphasized. When used inappropriately in negotiations the following words can be misinterpreted.

photo by by Office Now


“Must” is used extremely often in business negotiations. A lot of people “must” have everything. They don’t want to bargain, but they claim they’re willing to listen. That’s not really the best approach to use in a business meeting. How can you expect people to want to cooperate with you if you don’t want to cooperate with them?

Objectively speaking, “must” is an over-powering word that can backfire in business if not used properly. In some ways, it is demanding and it may exude command. Opponents certainly don’t want to feel that their collaborators are forcing them to do something, or agree to a certain deal. “We must have an answer right now!” This sounds rude and offensive. Your opponent will immediately adopt a hostile attitude towards you, and a whole deal can be off before it even begins.

photo by: By PresidenciaGVA


Using “understand” when doing business is not that bad provided that you use this word correctly. Don’t connect understanding with decision making because you don’t want to appear vulnerable in front of your audience. Over-thinking bargaining strategies is yet another huge mistake you don’t want to make. Avoid asking collaborators over and over again – “did you get what I’m trying to say?”, or “did you hear what I just said?” and so on. These sorts of questions are impolite, and they put counterparts in unpleasant situations.

A lot of people enter business meetings with the sole aim of making counterparts recognize a certain concept, thought or idea. But if you try too much to persuade or compel, you risk creating uncertainty. Eventually, your business partners will want to leave. It’s natural to reject business deals when an opponent becomes overly-persistent.


“Maybe” is a word that should never be used during business negotiations. It creates doubt and puzzlement. Opponents will ask themselves if they made the right call; and if your response to their offer is “maybe”, then they could always take it back and reconsider. It’s really important to have a decisive attitude when doing business. Whether you’re a devoted CEO who must bargain daily with investors and suppliers, or just a starting entrepreneur with a brilliant idea, knowing how to speak when negotiating sets a tone and it create a first impression. You don’t want to start with “maybe” and make everyone present assume you’re indecisive and insecure.


Of course you have things that are non-negotiable, but this doesn’t mean you have to lay them out there for everyone to take advantage. They say in business everything’s negotiable, and to some extent that’s true. You just have to find a way to convince an opponent that what you have is valuable enough for them to accept. Many things get in the way here, and if you don’t have what it takes to compel, then maybe you need to hone your negotiation skills a little bit better.

A negotiation is like a clock – it can only move ahead. You can’t go back because you can’t take back the words you said in front of your audience. Be careful as sometimes the simplest, most trivial phrases can have the most demanding impact. Be specific and know both your business and their business.

We’re talking about an industry that is driven by vision. Business people should have realistic expectations. They should use words meant to empower and not disarm opponents. Furthermore, it’s equally important to maintain a positive attitude throughout the negotiation process. Don’t pressure opponents; let them make decisions on their own. If you’re not that sure about your negotiation skills, a few negotiation training sessions can help overcome your fears. There’s nothing magical about bargaining – all you need is poise and determination to become a professional.

Steve Brown is a regular blogger who writes articles related to small business and negotiation. He is writer at many high ranking sites and loves playing with his dog in his free time.