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The vote to depose Managing Partner Jessica Pearson of Pearson Hardman, the fictitious law firm in USA Network’s legal drama series Suits, was moments away. She was going to lose.

But then star associate Mike Ross barged into the meeting, threw a folder onto the table, and announced that he had evidence that the favorite – Daniel Hardman – would subject the firm to huge liabilities from a previous case.

It was a bluff: the folder contained nothing substantive. Ross’ nightmare? Hardman would take a break, evaluate the evidence, and call his bluff. Hardman did nothing of the kind, lost the vote, and was kicked out of the firm.

Last week’s column was about the major advantages of taking a break. Today I address the disadvantages. Both need to be weighed in making this strategic decision.

What are the major disadvantages?

1. Your counterpart can reevaluate and investigate

Hardman should have taken a break and checked out the alleged evidence of his malfeasance. Instead, he made the wrong split-second decision, they took the vote, and he paid the price.

Perhaps the biggest disadvantage of taking a break is that it gives your counterpart the opportunity to reassess, reevaluate, investigate possibly new and different facts and circumstances, and maybe even change the negotiation dynamic (including by weakening your leverage).

This is especially problematic in competitive negotiations. Have you heard the phrase “strike while the iron is hot?” If you have the leverage and it’s an aggressive zero-sum-type negotiation, get the deal done and don’t take a break. Nail down their agreement.

2. Communicates weakness and lack of preparedness

Experienced negotiators often pride themselves on their ability to make excellent decisions in the midst of heated negotiations.

They may also be concerned that asking for a break in certain situations may signal weakness and a recognition of their inability to make good decisions in-the-moment. This will especially be an issue if you only request breaks when you’re at a loss as to how to respond or what to do.

In effect, your request is saying – you threw us on our heels. True or not, that’s not a signal you want to send.

3. Momentum killer

The mediation lasted over 12 hours, and we finally reached agreement. One of the parties then suggested we get it typed up overnight for signing in the morning.

The mediator strongly recommended against taking a break until the morning. He said we had the momentum and a deal and urged us to get it typed up and signed that night.

He was right. The parties might not feel the same in the morning, and this might blow up the deal. It’s like buyer’s remorse – the feeling after-the-fact that you could or should have done better.

Latz’s Lesson: Disadvantages of taking a break include giving your counterpart the opportunity to reevaluate and investigate, signaling weakness, and killing momentum.

 * Marty Latz is the founder of Latz Negotiation, a national negotiation training and consulting company that helps individuals and organizations achieve better results with best practices based on the experts’ research. He can be reached at 480.951.3222 or

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