Apply these three techniques in a difficult negotiation

Diverse group negotiating at a business meeting

Here are three really good ideas for you to consider before you enter a tough negotiation. Whether this is a tough negotiation with a difficult party, a complex negotiation with many moving parts, or a very significant negotiation that may be potentially stressful and tiring, these three ideas can be very helpful. These are reframing your attitude and reappraising the situation, preparing a draft agreement ahead of time, and asking your counterpart for advice.


Reframe and reappraise



Try reframing to address your own attitude going in.

Pause before preparing and before entering the session. Explore your own feelings. Pause, close your eyes, and focus on your breathing. Put your hand up to your mouth. Feel the breath against your hand. Take several slow deep breaths allowing your diaphragm to extend and feel the breath enter and exit your body a few times. Calm yourself.

Now think of something positive that happened to you in the last 30 days. Reflect on that thought. How this made you feel. Hold that thought. What might you tell a close friend about how you feel and what you want to share? Imagine sharing this with that person.

These first two steps will help you calm yourself and give you a more positive frame of reference before you begin planning for the negotiation and before you enter the negotiation.

Go into both phases with a positive attitude and look at the negotiation as an opportunity rather than simply a challenge.

By reframing ahead of time, it may be possible to change anxiety or anger into an opportunity with positive excitement. So much of life is about attitude. By simply taking the time to calm yourself and to develop a positive attitude while planning and then before executing the negotiation, this can make a positive difference.

Now let’s look at reappraising


If you are in a tough negotiation with someone that may try bullying techniques, become abusive, be controlling, come across as hard and inflexible, or be very authoritative it is very important that you visualize this ahead of time. In the planning phase visualize this and how you will remain professional, business like, and principled. It is very important to do this before the actual session.

It turns out if you reappraise the situation like this ahead of time, when the situation arises, you will maintain more of your cognitive capabilities. That is, you will think more clearly. You will not be as reactive and potentially even lose your cool. If you don’t and the situation arises when the other party tries to anger you, you could try to suppress your emotions. When you simply suppress the emotion. For example, telling yourself I will not become angry, you can stop yourself from becoming angry. However not having reappraised yourself ahead of time you may no longer be thinking as clearly. It is important to reappraise yourself before the actual event if at all possible

If you have reappraised yourself ahead of time, you will be calmer, more focused at the task at hand, and be more in control when you have to make difficult decisions.

This is one of the techniques to regulate your emotions in a negotiation even with difficult people.

Mediators use this technique before entering mediations. They hope for the best, plan for the worst and center themselves to understand and be compassionate during the session. As a mediator, I have found this technique to be very helpful. That is one reason I want to share this with you. We can learn from each other.

The second idea is to prepare a draft agreement ahead of time.


Prepare a draft agreement ahead of time


Conceptually, you have an outline of what you might want to have included in a negotiated agreement, However, the details really matter in these types of situations. By taking the time to draft an agreement for a complex, difficult, or stressful negotiation this gives you a clear starting point and reference. This technique is sometimes referred to as an anchor.

By taking the time to address the broad areas of who, what, when, where, why and how, you can explore additional details and ramifications. These details may not be immediately apparent without carrying out this step. The process of preparing a draft agreement will allow you to uncover elements that you might otherwise not think to bring up during the session.

By having taking the initiative to prepare a draft agreement when you are calm, focused, and confident, this will give you a reference point.

Having completed the draft agreement, now key points can be taken and placed in a more detailed outline form to make sure you address each point somewhere along the negotiation. Having that detailed outline as a reference during the negotiation acts as a check list to make sure you addressed all of your initial concerns. You can also expand on the outline as additional concerns arise during the negotiation. All in all, preparing a draft agreement and then reducing it to an outline ahead time can be a very good idea in these types of difficult situations.

The last idea for you to consider is to ask the other party for advice


Ask your counterpart for advice


This may not strike you initially as a good idea, but let’s explore this further. You have your position. The other party has their position. You have explored underlying interests with each other. You may be at a loss on what you might want to do next. Sometimes it is not clear if there may be a way to resolve the negotiation. At a point like this, another alternative to consider is to ask the other party what they would do if they were in your situation.

The other party may actually view you as being more competent because you asked for advice.

You are taking the opportunity to flatter the other side. Negotiations are all about connecting relationships. Negotiations like these are very emotional. You may be able to actually strengthen your relationship with the other party because you asked the other party for advice. You may benefit as a result of asking for the advice with the advice that is offered. Being able to strengthen the relationship and having a better outcome are two very powerful reasons to ask your counterpart for advice.

In a recent mediation I conducted between two well-known and respected business valuers, one simply asked the other after a very productive dialogue between the two experts, what the other party would now suggest if she were in his shoes. She provided an answer that surprised the client and actually worked very effectively to help resolve the issue. Don’t underestimate the power of asking for advice from the other side.




There you have it, here are three great ideas to help you with difficult negotiations. Reframe and reappraise the situation both during the planning phase and before entering the negotiation. Prepare a draft agreement ahead of time, and have an outline of key points to make sure you address all of the major issues during the negotiation. Ask for advice from the other party and see where that may take you going forward.

About the author

Mike is a mediator, a professional speaker, and an author. Is conflict blocking your results? Do you want to overcome conflicts and be more collaborative with others? Mike can help. You may contact Mike directly at and at (651) 633-5311. Mike has written 12 books including his latest book, The Collaboration Effect: Overcoming Your Conflicts, and The Servant Manager, Business Valuations and the IRS, and Peaceful Resolutions that you may find helpful. [Michael Gregory, ASA, CVA, NSA, MBA, Qualified Mediator with the Minnesota Supreme Court]

About the author

Mike Gregory is a professional speaker, an author, and a mediator. You may contact Mike directly at and at (651) 633-5311. Mike has written 12 books (and co-authored two others) including his latest book, The Collaboration Effect: Overcoming Your Conflicts, and The Servant Manager, Business Valuations and the IRS, and Peaceful Resolutions that you may find helpful. [Michael Gregory, ASA, CVA, MBA, Qualified Mediator with the Minnesota Supreme Court]