The negotiation resource center Powerful Tips
A quick reference guide



Opening Offers


Difficult Negotiations

Powerful Tips


Resource Guide

Where 60-60 solutions begin


If a negotiation is a test, this is the one-page cheat sheet you're allowed to bring with you.  Thorough preparation and practice are the real keys to success.  But a little memory jog when you're under pressure never hurt either.  Below are some of the most powerful pointers we've discovered.  Put them in your pocket.

1. Your power lies in your walk-away alternatives.  Make sure that you have real, viable options that don't require an agreement:

  • You'll be empowered to support your interests. 

  • Your confident attitude will compel others to listen to and meet your interests.  They'll realize that they have to if they intend to obtain agreement. 
2. Do not disclose your walk-away alternatives.   When you remind others of the options you have should they not acceptably satisfy your needs, your commitment to negotiation falls into question, and the environment becomes hostile.  This draws the attention away from underlying needs, and the climate becomes less conducive to the development of creative options.
3. Figure out the walk-away alternatives of the other parties.  Knowing what options they have if no agreement is reached will help you construct options that are favorable relative to their specific negotiation. In other words, you'll be able to construct an agreement that improves on their alternativesæa fair agreementæwithout giving away too much.  
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4. No offer is too high.  Any offer is valid provided you can present objective criteria that prove each term of the offer fills to some extent the underlying needs of all parties.
5. Don't react emotionally.  When you encounter tactics intended to intimidate, rush, draw out discussions, or otherwise derail the focus from underlying needs and mutual gain, patiently react to the problem at hand:  The discussion needs to be refocused.  Draw attention back to substantive interests and options that fairly address those interests.  Use personal attacks as a signal that it's time to reestablish everyone's commitment to a mutually beneficial outcome.
6. Remember that all the needs presented are not of equal importance.  Focus time on building an understanding of which needs are most likely to influence the outcome.  Strive to create options that satisfy those interests.
7. Listen more than you talk.  As a listener, you are gathering information that can help you figure out which of the other side's needs must be met for an agreement to be considered acceptable, and to what degree those needs will have to be met.  Listening gives you the advantage.  The better your understanding, the more flexibility and creativity you'll have as you create options.  Talking gives this advantage to the other side. 
8. Know the authority of each person in the room.  Make sure you know whether or not you are negotiating with someone empowered to make the final decision.  If you aren't, make sure you present options in such a way that they meet the perceived needs of the negotiator and the other members of their organization.  
9. Analyze concessions.  Look for patterns in the types of concessions made by the other parties, and be attentive to the messages sent by your concessions: 

  • Small concessions give the impression that the bottom line is not far off.  
  • Large concessions indicate that a lot more can still be conceded before the bottom line is reached.  
  • Rapid or large concessions undermine the credibility of the initial offer.  
  • All concessions teach the lesson that more concessions will be made. Never make concessions expecting that the other side will meet your terms on the next issue.  On the contrary, they will expect more concessions.  Remember:  When the other side makes a concession on the terms of a specific issue, it is statistically certain that a second concession on the same issue can be secured. 
10. Never be bludgeoned into splitting the difference.  When an apparent impasse has been reached, splitting the difference is widely regarded as the ultimate fair solution.  But the suggestion to split the difference is often used to induce guilt.  Guilt is likely to lead to concessions on your partæmaybe even concessions that lead to an outcome worse for you than splitting the difference.  Additionally, splitting the difference rarely results in an outcome that surpasses anyone's expectations, and it does not ensure that the interests of all parties are satisfied. 

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