Here Are Five Tips to Improve Your Negotiation Skills

Here Are Five Tips to Improve Your Negotiation Skills

When we think about training and negotiation this may conjure up negative feelings. I want to promote that this can be fun and at the same time all of us can improve our negotiating skills. Not everyone can be a great negotiator, but we all can improve.

Here are five tips to make the process easier so that you can apply these tips to a less serious negotiation that will help you with a more serious negotiation in the future. Consider these in a non-threatening environment first rather waiting until you have to participate in the big show and a very difficult negotiation. 

  1. Recognize that being prepared is crucial: Being prepared involves knowing our positions and interests related to the topic of the negotiation with a series of discussion points, and also considering the other side’s perspective and how we may react to what we may think they may present to us. In addition, I would offer that mental preparation is needed. We need to center ourselves and focus on the issues.  We need to separate the problem from the people and be hard on the problem and soft on the people. We need to come with a spirit of collaboration even if the other side is coming at us as a hard or soft bargainer. Set aside time to prepare (if possible a few hours a day starting several days in advance) by doing your homework and research. Determine your BATNA (in case the negotiation fails) and other alternative positions from your starting positions to your BATNA.
  2. Take training: No one, not an athlete, a debater, a teacher, or a preacher can simply enter into a situation and expect to shine without training. Today there are many options from the Program on Negotiation from the Harvard Law School, to training on line or by buying and studying a book. We learn better when the training is interactive and we can practice negotiation skills. We can apply the lessons learned in training to our actual situation. When we practice what we have learned from training we more likely to retain what we have learned over a longer period of time.
  3. Screw up: We all make mistakes. That is how we learn. Expect that you will make mistakes, and then learn from them on what not to do and what you might want to do in the future. By taking the time to prepare and taking training it is possible to reduce your mistakes. We all have shortcomings. Accept that we can learn and improve on these if we don’t focus on the two stinky twins of BO and BS. That is Blaming Others or Blaming Self. We can learn that our intuition and biases may have negatively impacted our ability to focus on the problem instead of the people and with time become far more receptive to accepting the deficiencies in others.
  4. Practice, practice, practice: Recently I presented to a C Group of corporate executives that were CFOs or higher. I spoke to them about the process of developing Peaceful Resolutions, from my book of the same name. I walked them through the processes of de-escalation, communication conversation, discussion, listening and negotiation indicating that making it to negotiation is really a process. The emphasis was on relationships, listening, education and then negotiation. In the end this all means nothing without practice, practice and practice. Otherwise this is just an exercise. With practice it is possible to truly enhance our skills.
  5. Find a mentor and coach  The odds are good that you know someone in your organization or within your circle of contacts that is a very good negotiator. Reach out to that person. Ask that person to assist you as your mentor or your coach. A good coach or mentor does not tell you what to do. A good coach or mentor listens, asks you questions and helps you sort out what it is you might want to do given your situation. Their advice is consistent, stressed preparation, encourages practice and works with you to reflect on how it went and what you can learn from your experiences after the negotiation. This will help you improve.

Consider these five tips on a negotiation that has more limited consequences to enable you to practice all five tips. In that way you will be more confident, and understand how to enhance your skills for a more sensitive negotiation in the future. Consider the face in the photograph above and her feeling of success in applying these five tips in her negotiation, and how having tried this she is more confident and she will be a better negotiator in her next negotiation. You can do this too.

Contact Mike Gregory to speak to your group or consult with you, and check out his website, books and free content in the About section. Michael Gregory, NSA, ASA, CVA, MBA and a Qualified Mediator with the Minnesota Supreme Court, is an international speaker that helps others resolve conflict, negotiate winning solutions and inspire leaders. Mike services clients business to IRS, business to business and within businesses. Mike may be contacted directly at or at (651) 633-5311.

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]