The importance of building a connection in a negotiation

Two hands with two puzzle pieces pushing them together

After defining the problem correctly, the next most important aspect in a negotiation to ensure the probability of success is to develop a connecting relationship with the other party. This has been presented before in the context of the IRS and with mediation and negotiations. This article takes a deeper dive given insight presented from the Harvard Law School Program on Negotiation to assist you in your real world needs. Insights are provided from the text, Peaceful Resolutions.




Of course you know the importance of listening.

The reason you listen is to understand the other party’s interests.

It’s important to truly listen by asking open ended questions while being empathetic to your counterpart’s concerns. Active listening means that a conscious decision is made to paraphrase, summarize demonstrating not only an understanding of the words, but also of the emotions behind those words. By reflecting what the other party has stated, the other party knows that you indeed are listening to not only the words, but the emotion behind those words. This significantly enhances the probability of success in a negotiation.


Importance of relationship


It has been proven that

taking even a few minutes to develop a connecting relationship on some level can improve the opportunity for success in a negotiation.

The connection may be economical, social, environmental, psychological, political, personal or any form that allows two individuals to relate to each other. Inspired leadership knows this and takes the time to look for opportunities to connect even with the shortest of encounters.  


An example of leadership bonding that can be applied to a negotiation


Having spoken to a very successful well-respected executive by his employees with an extremely large span of control that was geographically dispersed over 23 states with thousands of employees, I asked him his secret. He told me he always leaves tries to leave time for “management by wondering around”. When he does this,

this executive will literally walk up to someone working in a cubical and simply introduce himself and in less than five minutes do the following:

  • Ask the other person who they are and what they do at the firm.
  • Note something about the individual by the personal information in their work cubical and comment on it (a photo, a calendar, something on their desk) to allow the other person to share about themselves.
  • Finally, he would ask if there is anything, they want to share with him.

After that he thanks them and leaves. What did he do?

In less than five minutes he built a level of trust with someone he did not know at all.

He told me about 10% of the time he hears a golden nugget. About 10% of the time he hears some concern. He knows there always two sides to every issue. Regarding the concern, he follows up or has a member of his staff follow up to explore the issue. He indicated 90% of the concerns have something to do with communication. As a leader, he wants to make sure the employee is not retaliated against, but instead is recognized for raising the concern. He personally makes sure this takes place. That says something about him as a leader.

That is a great leader. We can learn from this example. How can we apply this to a negotiation?


Developing trust


What that executive did in this example in less than five minutes was to consciously work to develop a level of trust with someone he did not know. The two individuals bonded in some way with a warm fuzzy feeling where the other party felt truly valued within a very short time frame.

Trust is the key. If there is trust then there is a greater likelihood of ensuring positive actions in the future.

Do you think that employee will remember that encounter? Do you think that employee will share this with others? What are the ramifications of that manager taking just five minutes to personal bond with that employee? Take the lessons learned from this management example and apply this to a negotiation.


Find a way and take the time to connect with the other party


When meeting with the other party, take the time (if only briefly) to work on connecting with them.

Do your homework ahead of time

with social media (Facebook, LinkedIn, Snapchat, Reddit etc.), an internet search, your own informal network, an outreach to others in your firm and through other connections or other sources. Why? You want to find a way to relate to the other party not just in some way, but in a meaningful way.




If the other person trusts you at some level, they are more receptive towards giving you consideration. That implies as you present information or offer an alternative,

there is a greater probability that it may be perceived in a more positive light.

That can only help in a negotiation. There is no real downside.

Communication is the key

From the book Peaceful Resolutions and the chapter on Communication I want to share several insights for consideration.

Communication is two way.

You have to listen to be listened to.

It involves both verbal and non-verbal signals.

The words we offer, the tone of the words coupled with our facial expressions and body language imply significant meaning. From the nature of these elements

 it is possible to discern our level of commitment to this process.


How do you come across?


Do you come across as someone that is reliable and honest and that operates with integrity? That is the hope of the other party. It is up to you to demonstrate this.

Do you respect the other party?

If so, how do you demonstrate this with your words and actions? By focusing on the other party and reflecting what you perceive as their concerns this goes a long way towards enhanced communication.

In communication, don’t be afraid of silence.

Many negotiators are. Silence can be a very powerful form of communication. For example, pause to think to ensure that what you are about to say is stated properly to reflect not only the words, but also the tone, body language and facial expressions consistent with the message. The other side will likely pick up on this too and realize that you are being very thoughtful. This will likely give additional credibility to your response.

So why did we take the time to build a connecting relationship?

The proof is in the pudding. It pays off economically in business. By taking the time to bond with the other party

trust is enhanced, interests are disclosed and the pie can be made bigger.

If it did not work there would be no reason to share this important message. Take what you have learned here and apply this to your negotiations. Test it out. If won’t all of the time, but it certainly will most of the time and even in the most difficult of negotiations.


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]