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Killer Negotiation Tactics for Basically Nice People

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Killer Negotiation Tactics for Basically Nice People

Negotiating skills can help you manage lots of sticky situations, both at work and in your personal relationships. Here are a few examples of where these skills can improve your life and make everything go more smoothly, for you and anybody around you:

  1. Many family situations require negotiating with others. Deciding which movie to see, planning how to spend money, choosing a vacation itinerary and countless other scenarios are much more fun and satisfying when you apply these skills.
  2. Being a good negotiator enables you to get what you want more often, without resorting to becoming aggressive or pushy. Negotiating is far more effective than demanding or insisting on what you want- or just caving in.
  3. You’ll be more successful in the workplace if you know how to negotiate. These skills enable you to stand up for yourself and get what you want more often, without harming relationships.
  4. Negotiation skills increase your personal effectiveness in any group situation, even in volunteer and community groups, or relationships with your neighbors.
  5. Knowing how to negotiate lessens the chances that others will take advantage of you.
  6. Negotiating a fair solution makes you feel good about yourself and increases others’ respect for you. A good outcome in a negotiating relationship is when everyone feels they’ve been treated fairly.


Negotiation involves a set of conversational skills that anyone can learn. When researchers have observed the behavior of negotiators, they learned that the most successful do the following things:

  1. They plan ahead. Successful negotiations are rarely spontaneous. Taking the time to analyze the situation and think through your strategy is perhaps the most important element of negotiating success. This is true whether you are negotiating an important contract for your business or negotiating your vacation plans with your family.

Example: Rob wants to begin cycling again to get into better physical shape. He became a new father 10 months ago and has had no time to exercise. He worries that his wife will resist any discussion of his wanting to take time for himself, since the responsibilities of parenthood are so time-consuming. For a while he avoids the subject, fearing that it will turn into an argument, but eventually he starts to feel angry and resentful. He decides to negotiate with his wife, and begins by making a list of his needs and wants, as well as listing his best guesses about her needs and wants. When he approaches her about discussing this topic, he chooses his timing carefully and thinks about the most tactful way he can initiate the conversation.

  1. They are willing to consider a wide range of outcomes and options rather than rigidly insisting on a specific result. Negotiators who are most successful are open-minded and avoid being locked in to one outcome. They are willing to consider many possibilities and combinations of options.

Example: Fred is feeling irritated by his business partner Alex’s casual habits in their office: Fred likes a tidy environment but often comes in to find the space cluttered with papers, books and projects that tend to spill over. He was thinking of cleaning it himself every morning, to feel less distracted and start with a clean slate, until he decided to make a list of other options. He came up with several alternatives: Tell Alex that Fred would like to order some office furnishings to make organizing easier, or put a screen over his area when he’s generating a lot of work; or ask him to make a pile of his stuff before he leaves so it isn’t so unsightly in the morning. Fred also realized he could move his own desk so the view looks on a different part of the office, or he could write himself a reminder of all the great things about working with Alex and try to focus on those qualities.

  1. They look for common ground rather than areas of conflict. Pointing out areas where you and the other person are already in agreement conveys an attitude of cooperation and lessens any feeling of opposition.

Example: Sandy wants her next car to be a Volvo because of their reputation for safety. George wants a small, fuel-efficient car. She says, “Let’s start by talking about what we already agree on.  We both agree that the car has to have a strong safety record. And we said we want to buy a newer car, that won’t need as many repairs as the one we have now. We’ve set our price range as $10,000 or less. Why don’t we take it from there and see what’s posted on craigslist this weekend?”


So just remember, next time you’re in a situation where negotiation could help, it’s not about “winning.” It’s about this principle: Would you rather be happy, or right?

It’s not about you walking away feeling smug, the goal is to have everybody walking away feeling good about the interaction.

When you have this effect on people, they’ll want to give you your way next time around.