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Mastering the art of negotiation


The art of negotiation stems from your ability to communicate well with others. This article will provide you with a number of techniques and strategies to enhance your ability to communicate in business settings.

Don’t damage the flow

The quality of human communication is often dictated by the way in which they flow. If the interaction is effortless like a flowing stream, reaching agreements and building a strong relationship becomes easy.

If during a negotiation the flow of the discussion stops and starts, then usually very little progress is made.

One way to make sure that the negotiation flows well is to be aware of the verbal language that you are using.

Ben Franklin pointed out the most damaging, unproductive, and destructive word in our vocabulary is the word ‘but’.

When someone ‘says you are right…..but’, the word ‘but’ negates everything said before it, undoing any grains of truth initially in what you said.

Try replacing the word ‘but’ with the word ‘and’ during negotiations.

By using the word ‘and’ instead of ‘but’ you are showing a willingness to accommodate your recipient’s views, as opposed to dismissing their comments with destructive words like ‘but’ and ‘however.’

As I mentioned the success to mastering the art of successful negotiations is being able to maintain the flow. It is a bit like playing sport. Top performances are usually as a result of the athlete entering a flow state, where their actions become automatic and instinctive.

The same applies to negotiations, with effortless and flowing ones nearly always being productive.

Using the word ‘and’ keeps the progression of the negotiation smooth, helping to avoid any unnecessary conflict during the meeting.

Confrontation and opposition is the fast track way to damage the flow of a negotiation

Visualise success

Before entering an important negotiation I always recommend that you spend a few minutes visualising the ideal negotiation scenario in your mind.

Close your eyes and see yourself entering a negotiation feeling calm, and collected. Notice how you assert your body language in a positive, professional, and welcoming manner. Imagine communicating clearly and concisely, oozing with an inner confidence. Notice how good it feels when you are communicating at your best.

By programming your mind’s eye with the thoughts and feelings of a successful negotiator, you will increase the likelihood of working congruently with this internal view.

Soften your desire to want it so badly

This may sound a little paradoxical but you must not want the negotiation to go well, too badly. Over wanting something creates tension and often pushes your object of desire out of reach.

It is important to soften your desire for the negotiation to go well.

Here is a great exercise that allows you to do this:

Write down 3 reasons why it will not be so bad if the negotiation does not go to plan, and 3 reasons why the negotiation going well would be a good thing:


3 reasons why it will be a good thing if the negotiation goes to plan.

  • Increased business opportunities.
  • Increased annual turnover.
  • The growth of the company’s client list.

3 reasons why it will not be the end of the world if the negotiation does not go well.

  • There are plenty of other business opportunities to be had.
  • It is better for the negotiation to break down rather than the business relationship to break down when contracts have been signed.
  • Reduces your commitments to other parties, helping your business to maintaining its independence.

This will help you hit the right balance between over and under wanting your desired result.

When one party becomes too pushy due to their overwhelming desire to clinch the deal, their recipient is likely to respond by becoming defensive and backing away from the talks:

Forcing your intent only pushes your goals and targets further away

This again emphasises the importance of softening your desire to get the results you want.

It is all about how you say it

55% of communication is a result of physiology, with 7% coming from the actual content, and the remaining 38% being contained within voice tonality, Mehrabian (1971).

The facial expressions, the gestures, and the type of physical movements that you produce during a negotiation provides the recipient with as much information about what you are saying than the words do by themselves (Robbins, 1986).

Comedians are a fantastic example of how content really does take the back seat when you are communicating with others. When comedians attack, condemn and criticise their audience, they package their messages in such a way that you can only laugh. It shows that it is not just their words you are paying attention to, but also to their tonality and physiology.

Spend an equal amount, if not more preparing how you want to deliver your message before a negotiation, compared to spending most of your time getting the verbal content right.

The selfless, selfish continuum

Everyone exists somewhere on the selfless/selfish continuum. Some people look at human interactions in terms of what is in it for them, and some in terms of how they can help others. It is not an either or continuum with most people existing somewhere in between the two extremes.

Whenever you are negotiating, work out where the other party is on this scale.

This is particularly important in occupational negotiations. If you know what motivates the other person you can fit the recipient to the most appropriate job.

Individuals that are predominantly driven to help others, customer care roles maybe appropriate, while self driven individuals maybe better suited to roles that are performance driven.

How can you understand someone if you don’t know what motivates them?

You can usually determine where the other party is on the scale by being attentive to the things they say, and the noticing their body language.

By identifying what motivates them you can mould your language to appeal to the recipient’s position on the continuum.

For example if the individual errs towards a self referenced mindset, you can constantly refer to how the negotiated deal will directly affect the recipient. If he/she is predominantly motivated to helping others then you can refer to how the negotiated deal will value and benefits others.

Get you and your client into a good state

When you enter a negotiation make sure that you and the other parties are feeling good.

The best way to do this is to get into a productive state before the meeting starts.

Emotions are socially contagious and by entering the negotiation full of positive energy and enthusiasm it is likely that you will infect the other party with your good feelings and general optimism.

State is the biggest predictor of the behaviour, and if both parties have productive internal states the negotiation can only go well.

Onto Part Two

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Click here to read part two of this article.

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