All too often we try to do things by ourselves. The old axiom on the American way is that “we should pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps”. Well that may work well with boots, but it takes a village to enhance skills. This is especially true when it comes to soft skills, or what I refer to as the critical skills. This commentary focuses on what skills to look for in a negotiation coach and provides you two examples of negotiating. One is at work and one is at home.

What does a good coach negotiation coach do?


A good coach starts by listening to you to understand the problem.


(1) Only by properly understanding and defining the problem can a coach work with you to address your concerns. (2) When the coach offers advice, the advice has to be consistent with how the coach behaves in his or her own negotiations. (3) A good coach stresses the importance of being prepared – prepare, prepare, prepare. (4) Practicing a negotiation beforehand with an understanding of roles, alternatives, interests etc. is key. (5) Evaluate the negotiation after the negotiation is how to stress improvements going forward. A good negotiation coach addresses all five of these areas.

Coach or mentor

Everyone needs a coach or mentor(s). We would not think of picking up a new sport without getting some advice. When it comes to negotiations, we all negotiate every day at work, at home and in life. Does that mean we are excellent negotiators or that we cannot enhance our skills?


We all can make improvements. One way to do this is with a coach, mentor or mentors.


Personally, I have mentors I reach out to and I have a support group of friends and associates I can reach out to for excellent help. This didn’t just happen. It takes some effort.

What might a negotiation coach look like?

First, of all who do you know and admire that you think of as an excellent negotiator? Why do you think they are good at what they do? What skills do they have that you admire? Might you reach out to that person or person(s) should you have a question or concern, or just want to speak with them about the topic? This person or persons may be someone you should network with and enhance your relationship with them.

Here are two examples for you.

The first example is at work

When someone I knew who wanted to stay in her current position, but she had just been offered a $10,000 raise to go to a different department in the same company, that person reached out to me as one of her mentors. She thought I man have some insight into the situation.


Exploring the situation, a good mentor is able to help that person sort out the key elements, and then how to approach his or her boss.


She wanted the raise, but liked her current role and saw greater long-term benefits staying in her current department. With coaching we discussed how to reach out to her boss and let her boss know how she felt. She let him know that he had been approached with the offer. Personally, she wanted to accept the pay raise, but she preferred to stay in this department, liked her boss, liked her peers, and liked what she was doing, but could his department match the offer?

What are other interests besides money?

That person was also coached by this mentor to potentially bring up personal time off (annual and sick leave), working outside of the office, and other interests related to that particular job. The boss liked the way he was approached and two days later indicated that his department would match the other offer and considered the other items. The had a happy ending. This helped her sort out the issues and how to approach her boss.

The second example is at home

If you have children you know you have negotiations with tough negotiators all the time. When something negative happens, our natural inclination is escalating our anger, flood our brains with various chemicals and hormones and respond inappropriately. However, knowing this we can change.


Knowing that we are starting to get angry, we can conquer the fire and instead pause, focus on the problem and address the situation. This can be very hard and it takes practice. Don’t let the situation control you. Make your mind up to stay in control and not let yourself flood.


For example, the negative situation arises, (1) define the problem, (2) state what needs to happen (controlling tone and body language) and (3) offer to help. Check out this Harvard Business Review article that demonstrates this example to be applied at work or at home. Especially take note if you are a new manager or a leader that is having concerns with someone else at work.

Neuroscience insights

The amygdala sits at the top of the brainstem, has two parts and is about the size of your thumb nail. This is the reptilian brain that provides chemicals and hormones to allow you to enact the fight or flight response. You have 6 to 10 seconds from the time you start to become angry until you flood your brain with these chemical and hormones and totally lose it. What can stop this? Luckily the prefrontal cortex in the front of your brain that is only 5% of the mass but uses 25% of the energy can override the amygdala if you practice this and work with your brain to overcome your anger.


Consider the positive impacts of mindfulness.



It can be demonstrated scientifically that by daily taking time out to pray, meditate, reflect or practice yoga can really help. These processes can help clear out the prefrontal cortex and help you control your anger.




The more you do this the better you will become at maintaining a more neutral presence.

Resources to help you

The Harvard Law School Program on Negotiation offers a great resource on this topic. It was this article that gave me the idea to do more research and provide you with additional ideas and insights in this blog. I also recommend two sources on neuroscience that are written in lay terms that you to may find to b really helpful. These are The Greater Good Science Center at the University of California at Berkeley and the Neuroscience Institute.

Are you looking for some help?

Mike Gregory is an expert on conflict resolution and negotiations. He focuses on conflict resolution business to business, business to government (IRS)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]