Do you know how to make concessions in a negotiation?

People sitting around a table with one person standing about to take away a signed document

Part of daily work and home life is full of negotiations. When not addressed effectively these can result in conflict, disputes, frustration, and in some cases anger. So, the question becomes how can you truly negotiate and make concessions in a negotiation while de-escalating the situation and working with another party? Four strategies are presented to help you making effective concessions in a negotiation at work or at home.


You want to be right


Our brains are wired to appreciate and reinforce yes-no, right-wrong, my way-not your way type decisions. You want to be right. Would not the world be a better place if everyone simply did what you wanted? Well actually, no. However, our brains like a sense of control, predictability, and progress. When you are in a negotiation you want to have a sense of control, be able to predict what will happen, and be able to see progress. When you do not this causes stress. This can raise your anxiety. The same is true for the other party in the negotiation.

Instead of trying to be right listen to the other party.

Once a person has been listened to, they are more likely to listen to you. Explore interests. Behind every position is at least one interest. Interests are the seeds to a solution. In a negotiation you are trying to come up with an acceptable solution.


How can you help de-escalate the situation?


Often you respond defensively to a negative reaction to your position. First, recognize the reaction. Why do you feel this way? Note how you are feeling and ask yourself why. Then

consider these 10 steps to to help you de-escalate many situations:

1. Do not take it personally

2. You decide whether to become angry or not

3. Listen actively by


Asking open ended question


Suspending your own judgment


Not offering advice

4. Slow down

5. Practice empathy with the other party

6. Be aware of your own emotional triggers

A change in your body language

A change in your tone

A change in your eye contact

Pacing or fidgeting

Clenching your fist

Clenching your jaw

7. Do not pass judgement

8. Practice courteous behavior

9. Work with the other party to say yes

10. Give yourself positive self-talk to stay positively focused

These can be hard and take practice, but you have to start somewhere. Why not now?


Take steps for making concessions


Making the right concession at the right time can have an effective impact on a negotiation. Having read this article from the Harvard Law School Program on Negotiation inspired the commentary that follows.


Identify and label your concessions


Do not assume that the other party understands when you are making a concession. The other party may either not recognize that you are making a concession or may not give credit to you making a concession without you pointing out that that you are indeed making a concession.

Make sure that the other party understands that you are giving something up. Then indicate why this is beneficial for the other party.

However, keep in mind your interests. Do not be too hasty. Consider the other side’s perspective. How may this seem to them? A concession that is marginal at best will have no impact. On the other hand, a concession that is considered reasonable and serious will show the other side that you indeed are serious. As concessions are made point out that are indeed moving in their direction.


Ask them what they are willing to concede


Do not negotiate against yourself. If you are offering a concession, ask them what they are willing to concede on their end. This is why moving slowly and deliberately is so important.

Be diplomatic but indicate that you expect a similar concession on their part.

Point out concessions that you may have made from your initial position. The other party does not know what you have given up from your initial position or what the impact of what you are giving up when you are making a concession without you laying this out for them. It is up to you to make this clear to everyone involved. Make sure everyone understands this before moving on. Then ask them what they are they willing to concede?


Consider a contingent offer


If I do this, will you do that? Make the contingent concession real and reasonable. You do not want to focus on to small of a concession. This is demeaning to the other side. No one wants to feel they are wasting their time. Explain your interests and practice listening actively using the six elements presented above in step 3.

A contingent offer is particularly on point in a one time negotiation or with someone you do not trust.

This tells the other party you are willing to make a concession, but only if the other party agrees to make a specific concession too. This could involve additional activities, more service, additional sales, a change in quality, some adjustment in demands or similar actions. Think creatively ahead of time. What would you be willing to do if they made certain concessions? Brainstorm ahead of time and come into the negotiation with some alternatives. By being creative ahead of time and by bringing up contingent concessions at an appropriate time can be very impactful.


Make concessions in parts


Research has shown we prefer bad news all at once, but good news in installments. Finding $20 one day compared to finding $10 two days in a row most people prefer finding $10 two days in a row. Why is this relevant in a negotiation?

Most negotiators view a negotiation as iterative in nature. You expect to go through several back and forth sessions including counter offers.

By making a reasonable offer, but not as large as you had intended you may find the other side wiling to accept your reasonable offer.

If not, you could sweeten the pot so to speak with the next installment. You are demonstrating reasonableness, flexibility, listening, trust building, and a willingness to work together. This builds goodwill.




In a negotiation consider where you are coming from and how your brain wants to be right. Recognizing this about you and the other party stay focused on the issues. De-escalate yourself and your team. Help the other party to de-escalate if needed too. Be prepared to walk away. Consider the four steps to making concessions introduced here. Be authentic and an ethical negotiator. The impact will carry on to this and future negotiations. You will become known as someone others want to work with in the future.

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]