The Art of Effective Negotiation

From heated discussions with your partner about whose turn it is to do the washing up, to salary reviews with your employer the ability to negotiate is a skill relevant to most areas of our lives. Negotiation is the process of bargaining to reach a deal, but what makes a good negotiator? Often we are so closely involved in day-to-day negotiations that we can not see the wood for the trees.

Key skills of a good negotiator

  • An awareness of the need to still “get along” after the talking has ended
  • An ability to anticipate how people will feel about a proposal and how they are likely to react
  • The ability to adjust the goalposts without losing sight of your objectives

Most negotiators have three basic positions when they are in talks. There is the ideal result, the realistic result and the fall back position. The best negotiators are not always those who achieve the ideal result but those who achieve something in the middle of the realistic position and the fall back position. Winning at all costs to get the best result rather than reaching a compromise will often bruise egos and make any future bargaining difficult or even impossible. Being able to identify this and move your position is often quite subtle, but if successful, it allows everyone to feel that they have been in charge of the outcome.

How does negotiation work?

Preparation - Being prepared will help you control your emotions if discussions become heated. The more you know about the other parties position the quicker you will be able to adapt your own negotiating position.

Opening moves – At the beginning of any negotiation you are gathering information, expressing your views and actively listening to the views of others.

Middle game – This is where the discussion heats up. You may find you have to re-evaluate your position or re-present your ideas. Do not be afraid to be creative to find a solution. Good negotiators practice at reading the signals the other party give off quickly and accurately.

Result! – Once you have reached an agreement it is time to evaluate how the process has worked. If you have only achieved some of your objectives try to set a date to review what has been agreed and revisit outstanding points.

In any negotiation you want to reach a deal that is acceptable to all involved. When you master the art of negotiation a relationship can be enhanced by the experience.


This type of negotiation strategy was created by Roger Fisher and William Ury of the Harvard Business School. It involves being open with the other side and revealing your hand. This form of bargaining relies on a high degree of trust and focuses on the parties overall interests rather than a set position. It often works best when dealing with issues that do not arouse very strong emotions.

Honing your skills

You have a great deal to think about when entering into a negotiation – what arguments to use, the language of the discussion, your body language, when to resort to plan B. Next time you want to negotiate with someone try and practice these three techniques. If you can prefect these skills you will be well on the way to 'winning' every argument.

Listen actively, but do not remain silent – By asking questions you will ensure you are actively listening to the other side. You will also ensure that you gather information which is the key to any effective negotiation.

Express your point of view, but do not argue – As a rule of thumb state your point of view no more than twice. Any more than this will not make your argument more persuasive but it may brand you as argumentative.

Communicate your point effectively – Be natural, many people find it hard to be natural when they are negotiating. The problem often comes from not feeling confident. Showing confidence when negotiating is about believing in what you are saying. This belief often comes from preparation. So long as you know your stuff, you should be fine.