Hostage negotiators start every negotiation as if it’s going to last for hours if not days. As a general rule, we have time on our side, because experience has shown that a hostage taker’s resolve tends to wear down as time goes on. There are dozens of reasons. Maybe the most important is the biological urge for preservation. Fanatics tend to get less fanatical as they grow older.
Of course, we can’t wait for a five-year-old to grow into a fifty-year-old. Simply being prepared for the long haul doesn’t necessarily mean that the negotiations will be successful. You should know going in what time constraints you have, if any. If it’s necessary to adjust your goals because of time—if you have to have a deal before the end of the week or you’re not eating—then time is part of your goal.
But the truth is: Usually, time isn’t important at all.
Say you have to have a deal during your visit to Chicago.
Really? The boss would tear it up if you did it over the phone at the airport on the way back?
If you’re going to buy a new car, does it really matter if you have it this week or next month? If the teachers’ contract expires at midnight July 1, what will happen?