Negotiating skills: 5 tactics to supercharge them


This guide outlines five strategies you can use to improve your negotiating skills and see negotiations through to a great result.

People often think of negotiating as something they rarely do.  In reality, you negotiate many times a day.  Whether it’s a discussion with your partner as to who’s collecting the children from school, or a discussion with a colleague about the best way to resolve a work problem. The difference is the size of what’s at stake.  In smaller, everyday negotiations the outcome may have less consequence, but in larger, more protracted negotiations the outcome may be critical. Being able to influence the outcome of a negotiation is an important career and life skill.

Negotiating skills: overview

Knowing the elements that lead to success or failure in negotiations and knowing when to apply them is not difficult, it is really difficult to use them. We routinely observe people who have supposeldy mastered negotiating skills and techniques, have a good deal on their hands, but don’t close the deal by letting their emotions surface, getting angry with the other party.

Others, despite knowing the theory of negotiation very well, cannot correctly express their points of view or do not listen to people, ending up obtaining agreements that are not very advantageous. There are also those who have difficulty understanding the basic needs and interests hidden in the attitudes and words of their interlocutors and are unable to gather the minimum information that allows them to get to know the people with whom they negotiate, master the issue in question, the context or consequences of their agreements.

To be a competent negotiator and achieve good results, it is first of all necessary to know and incorporate some negotiating skills and principles into our personality, master certain interpersonal skills that allow us to interact with other people, organize our inner thoughts and control emotional impulses. Without these primary knowledge and negotiating skills, any negotiation principle, strategy, tactic, tip, or trick we want to use will be useless.

The transformation of knowledge, negotiating skills and attitudes into practical results is known as competence. If one of these elements is not present, the resulting action will not have been competently carried out.

The concept of competence has been increasingly adopted by companies, public institutions and universities, both in personnel management and in the training of human resources for the labor market. By establishing the skills needed for a given position, the development of skills that can also be used in other areas is facilitated, enabling professionals, among other things, to work in an environment full of uncertainties and in constant evolution, such as that found in society of knowledge.

A survey carried out with 136 executives raised the 48 attributes considered most relevant for an executive to be able to work in the global market. In this research, negotiating skills — the ability to negotiate — was considered the eighth most important.

In another study, carried out in three medium and large companies to study the main managerial skills valued in the respective organizations, negotiation was also highlighted as one of the fundamental skills for a manager. The paper, Risk Management in Project Networks: An Information Processing View — an important publication that analyzesthe best practices in project management — considers negotiating skills one of the most fundamental assets for project managers.

5 tactics to improve negotiating skills

If you can’t negotiate you’ll find it harder than necessary to get things done, or worse, you’ll agree to do things you don’t want to do. Here are five core practices you need to succeed:

  1. Ready your mindset

Negotiating is mentally taxing. Your mind will be pushed and pulled in many directions.  One of the key negotiating skills is to understand the mindset you are adopting, and how you are likely to think, feel and react throughout the process. If you go in with the perspective – “I’m right. They’re wrong”, and are not willing to compromise or find common ground, you’re unlikely to make good progress. It is much more productive to approach the negotiation from a basis of mutual respect and a willingness to consider different ideas and options.

  1. Know your end game

Knowing what you want from the negotiation is one of the most crucial negotiating skills — and don’t be afraid to ask for what you want.  It can be a case of ‘don’t ask – don’t get’.  So be deliberate about your needs and when you ask.  Timing can be crucial, as a negotiation’s starting position can anchor the remainder of the conversation. This involves understanding the subject matter in detail and the potential options.  Know how your proposal could satisfy the other person’s needs, and where your boundaries and priorities lie.  Additionally, be clear on your non-negotiables and what you are willing to give up.

  1. Be prepared

Think about how the negotiation process will unfold, and the steps required to secure agreement.  Consider each of these steps, in advance of the discussion, and be curious as to how they may play out.  Running through possible scenarios and outcomes will enable you to better respond as issues or objections are raised during the discussion.  Importantly, seek to understand the other people involved – their operating style, agenda, needs and what they care about.  Be interested in them and their perspectives and ideas.    The more you understand those involved, the greater insights you’ll have into what they are likely to support or reject.

  1. Build relationships early

Negotiating effectively is much easier if you have a good relationship with the other people involved.  So build your network early and always take the long term view as one of your negotiating skills.  You want both parties to the negotiation to walk away from the process with their dignity intact and feeling as though they have done well.  If someone feels ill-treated through a negotiation, even if an agreement has been reached, there will be longer term ramifications.

  1. Have resolve

Negotiations often take unexpected turns, and it’s very easy for the situation to escalate.  You want to be able to respond mindfully, rather than reactively.  So, don’t negotiate when you are tired, and if you find your mind racing focus on breathing, and breathing deeply.  This provides time for your nerves to relax and your heart rate to slow down, making it easier to reflect and respond calmly.


Applying these five negotiating skills will help you maintain your focus and ability to see negotiations through to a good conclusion.

About Michelle Gibbings

Michelle Gibbings is a workplace expert, who works with global leaders and teams to help them get fit for the future of work. She is the Author of ‘Step Up: How to Build Your Influence at Work’ and ‘Career Leap: How to Reinvent and Liberate your Career’.

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