Here are six tips to make you an extremely successful negotiator

Two men and two women happy with a handshake symbolizing success

Here are six tips to make you an extremely successful negotiator. Essentially you need to manage your own emotions, develop trust, focus on interests, apply appreciation, make your message positive, and work towards positive closure. This article focuses on how to carry out each of these elements to make you an extremely successful negotiator. If you take these to heart and not only read the material by make a point to carry out these steps in a negotiation, you well be more successful.


Manage your own emotions


Working with neuroscientists I have learned that rather than us being very rationale as human beings, we are actually very irrational. That has actually served us well over time. As humans we are very emotional. Often what we feel in our gut warns of danger signs and helps protect us from harm. We are actually 98% emotional and 2% rationale.  Knowing this we have to be conscious of our emotions, those of our team and those of the other side.

Think about that and what this means in a negotiation.

As a negotiator you need to manage your emotions.

You need to work with the other side to help them manage theirs too. Often negotiations are very emotional. By actively listening and allowing the other party to speak this can go a long way towards helping to lower negative emotions. Let them say what it is they have on their minds. When this happens, they are far more likely to work with you to try and resolve issues.

In some instances, parties have agreed as a part of their rules to only let one person become angry at a time. With that as a rule, each person knows they will have a chance to respond no matter what direction the negotiation may take.  Although in many instances a ground rule may be to not have anyone become angry and to be professional at all times. In some instance the nature of the participants may be such that this is how they interact with each other. As a mediator, this is not for me to judge if it works for them.  In a negotiation, understanding the culture and what is acceptable to the participants is key. 


Develop trust


To develop trust, make use of the acronym SOAR.

That is be Straightforward, Open, Accepting and Responsible (SOAR).

To be straightforward operate with integrity and honesty. Make sure that you walk the talk. Be honest with the other party. Be frank. Be known as a straight shooter. Know that they can count on you when you speak.

Be open and transparent. What you can share ethically, morally and legally, consider sharing. If there is no harm to the negotiation, your firm or others, give serious consideration to sharing it with the other party. As the other party sees your openness this will tend to be reciprocated. Be smart about this and don’t share information that should not be shared.

Focus on being accepting. Be hard on the problem and soft on the people. When people screw up (and we all do), let them know that it is OK and that we all screw up. When you screw up, apologize. Let them know that it was a mistake. Do all you can to make sure it does not happen again.

Be responsible. Plan for unexpected delays. Over promise and under deliver. If you believe you can have something done in two weeks, ask for three weeks and ensure you can come in either early or on time. Think of how you feel when a plumber says I can do the job in two days, then completes the job in one day or three days. For the one day completion you feel great. For the three-day completion, you are not happy. Keep this in mind with any time frame or other promises.


Focus on interests


Many come to negotiations with entrenched positions. It may be necessary to help your side and the other side explore underlying interests.

Interests are the key to success in a negotiation.

Have you explored all of yours prior to the negotiation? Have you considered all of your interests economically, socially, environmentally and from all stakeholder’s perspectives? Similarly, have you considered their interests and how you will help the other side to consider their interests? How will you ask the question and what questions will you ask?


Apply appreciation


Appreciation by others is reaffirming.

Look for ways to appreciate the other side and to catch the other party doing things right.

There are many forms of appreciation. For example, a simple thank you or acknowledgement is often the easiest. Working on something together may be another form of appreciation. Being assigned a given task, training, or another area of affirmation to the other party may be a form of appreciation. Sometimes doing a volunteer activity together can be a form of appreciation and help build stronger ties. Of course, financial rewards coupled with overt forms of appreciation are appreciated as well. Express appreciation with not only what you say, but also with what you do.

Make your message positive

By staying above the line and being positive you can help yourself and your counterpart to hopefully remain positive. Avoid the two stinky twins of BO and BS, that is blaming others and blaming self, respectively.

Speak only for yourself. Speak about what you know.

Present what you know in a manner that will be received in the positive way you intended to present it.

 Instead of giving feedback, give feed forward.

That is instead of “why did you to that and what were you thinking”, try “Given what took place what can we do so that we can make sure this does not happen again? How can I help you and what have we learned from this experience?”


Work towards positive closure


ed by a reaction in a negotiation. What can be done to help alleviate this back and forth process? When the other side digs in, the natural tendency is to dig in yourself.

Avoid reacting negatively by not reacting. Avoid escalating.

Actually understand the skills for de-escalation and apply them to yourself. Instead once again focus on interests. Ask open ended questions such as:

What would you like have happen?

What concerns do you have?


In summary what do successful negotiators do?


They manage their own emotions by making this a conscious effort from the very beginning. Calm the fire. They develop trust using the SOAR model. The continually focus is on understanding interests by asking open ended questions. They look for ways to appreciate even the smallest wins and acknowledging accomplishments with the other side. By being positive throughout, this helps set a tone leading towards closure. They keep an eye on the prize throughout the process. When times become tough they focus is on de-escalation even when the other side becomes position based and works to escalate the situation. Knowing this information consider these tips in your own negotiation and you may very well be surprised at how well these tips can help you.

If you want to learn more check out this article from the Harvard Law School Program on Negotiation on this topic.


About the author


Mike Gregory is an expert on conflict resolution business to government (IRS), business to business, and within businesses. Mike is an international speaker and he has written 11 books including Business Valuations and the IRS: Five Books in One, The Servant Manager and Peaceful Resolutions. Mike may be contacted directly at and at (651) 633-5311. [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]