There is an inherent fear within most people to negotiate. While there are many different reasons why this could be, the most common appears to be a lack of understanding of the subject matter or a general fear of confrontation when asking for something they may want.

Negotiations don’t necessarily have to apply to legal or work like scenarios. Negotiations can happen daily, for example, at a consumer to the retail, domestic and of course, a business level. The key is not to complicate the scenario or situation. The Oxford dictionary defines Negotiation as “discussions aimed at reaching an agreement”. I like this definition because it’s simple, focuses attention on reaching an agreement, and does not limit it to a situation, place, or character.

When engaging in negotiations, there are many skill sets that a person can use. This can vary depending on the level of experience and confidence of the negotiator. For example, an experienced negotiator, in addition to using certain words or phrases, will also be able to read people’s body actions to determine if they are deceitful, aggressive, lying, thinking about something, becoming agitated or making a decision. This could be as simple as a touch to the nose or ear at a specific time, various eye movements, and obvious body languages like arm positions and general posture. While in isolation, these are not 100% accurate indicators; with the correct skills, reading of peoples baselines, and understanding human movement and emotions, this helps improve the odds for the negotiator.

For the rest of us mortals who are not human lie detectors, here are some basic do’s and don’ts when negotiating.

Keep Your Cool

No matter what the circumstance, do not be a bully. If you take away one thing from this article, remember it is all about the “Win Win” not “Who will Win”.

No matter the circumstances, avoid making it personal. Play the game, not the player.

Small Talk

By far, this is one of the most successful strategies for negotiations. If the opportunity arises before you start any formal negotiations or business talk (or even during a negotiation if the situation presents itself), try to find common ground or something to talk about. Not only does this build a report and breaks down barriers, but it often leads to the wants of the other side early on and allows for negotiations to flow freely.

Listen, Listen, Listen

There is truth in the 2/3 listening and 1/3 talking rule. Always seek to understand what the other party wants. Avoid interruptions or the need to interject. Let the other party have their say, and you can always ask questions when they are finished. If you listen effectively, you will quickly find what the other party really wants, which may be very different from what you first understood the situation to be.


As the saying goes, “If you fail to prepare, prepare to fail”. Know the facts, the people attending and if in a team coordinate who will say what and when.   Know your best alternative to a negotiated agreement (BATNA). Understanding your options quickly allows you to focus on what you can concede on (or do without) and what is mission-critical to your Negotiation. A good negotiator always considers various options and is flexible.

Don’t be in a hurry and accept that sometimes negotiations fail. Know when to have a break or to come back another day and try again (if appropriate).


  • DON’T – Don’t make assumptions – ask the other party to clarify something if you don’t understand.
  • DON’T – Don’t be afraid to ask for something you want.
  • DON’T – Don’t fill awkward silences, especially if the other side is thinking.
  • DON’T – Don’t be generic with figures or say, let’s worry about that later. Details are important.
  • TONE & LANGUAGE – be mindful of tone and foul language. This may disrespect.
  • AVOID – Avoid emotion and stick to the facts – this is one of the hardest things for most people to do, even experienced negotiators.
  • RESPECT – Treat the other side with respect at all times, regardless if you believe they are deserving or not.

Remember, negotiations are all about the ‘Win Win’ solution to reaching an agreement.