How To Improve Your Negotiating Skills

Becoming a better negotiator can enhance your results at the negotiating table
Becoming a better negotiator can enhance your results at the negotiating table
Image Credit: mehmetdeveci

Let’s face it – there are a lot of different moving parts to the game of negotiating with all of the different negotiation styles and negotiating techniques that are out there. When we spend time thinking about how we can become better negotiators, it can be all too easy for us to very quickly become overwhelmed. When this happens, we generally end up delaying taking any steps to become better. In order to take this large task and break it down into something that is more manageable, we need some guidelines on how to proceed.

It’s All About Preparing Correctly

Just like back when we were in school, we know that we’ve always got homework to do before a negotiation starts. This does not necessarily mean that we’re going to do it. Research overwhelmingly shows that under prepared negotiators make unnecessary concessions, overlook sources of value, and walk away from beneficial agreements. In order to improve the outcome of your next negotiation, the most beneficial thing that you could do would be to prepare thoroughly for important talks. That means setting aside a set number of hours every day to do your research and homework, creating a negotiation checklist of tasks to complete, and role-playing the negotiation with a trusted colleague, family member, or friend.

Get Some Negotiation Training

We all know that more training is always a good idea. If you choose to enroll in a training course, take steps to make sure that what you learn will stick. Think about how the concepts presented in class relate to your own negotiations. How do the theories presented apply to your practice? Listen carefully for repetition of concepts across the entire program. Negotiators learn better when we have the opportunity to abstract similar lessons from two or more experiences.

Mistakes Happen

I can only speak for myself, but I hate it when I make a mistake. I feel that I’ve let myself down and that I should have been able to do a better job. Feeling uncomfortable with elements of our behavior is a necessary step on the journey to improving your negotiation skills. When you can accept that virtually all of us are susceptible to judgment biases that color our decisions in negotiation, you will be in a good position to adopt better patterns of thinking that you can apply to your own negotiations.


If we want to become better negotiators, than we need to realize that this is going to require practice on our part. Negotiation training and study allows us to practice concepts, but the process of change is not complete when the training is over. Reflect on what you have learned. Think about which concepts you would like to apply to your negotiations and actively practice them, both at work and at home. Try out new negotiation skills and strategies with friends and family, who are likely to be forgiving of your mistakes. It is only by starting to use your new negotiating skills that they will have a chance to become second nature for you


Get A Coach

When we want to become better negotiators, we need to realize that this is not something that we are going to be able to do by ourselves. Instead, we need to find an effective negotiation coach who can help us to focus on improving our negotiation skills. Such top negotiators are well versed in an explicit theory of negotiation that allows them to explain and predict what will and won’t work. Look for a negotiation coach who can help you set goals, figure out what techniques to try, and understand what happened after the fact. A good negotiation coach (1) stresses the importance of preparation, (2) rehearses new negotiation skills, and (3) debriefs the final results.

What All Of This Means For You

When it comes to negotiating, none of us are perfect. We all know that we could become better. It can be a bit scary as we look around and try to figure out where the best place for us to spend our time would be if we wanted to improve. It turns out that there are five specific areas were every negotiator can spend time improving and they will see immediate results in their negotiating.

A good principled negotiation starts with doing your homework. You’ll never be able to get the deal that you want if you don’t go into your next negotiation prepared. We can all become better negotiators by getting more training. Just sitting in a class listening to an instructor won’t be enough, we need to take what they tell us and find ways to apply it to the types of negotiating situations that we find ourselves in. We need to understand that while negotiating there is a good chance that we’re going to end up making some mistakes. Our judgment can become clouded and we make bad decisions. Get over it – learn from your mistakes and move on. You’ll always do a lousy job the first time that you engage in a particular negotiation. This is why before a negotiation starts you will have wanted to take the time to practice with others so that you can get good at this stuff. Finally, all of us could use a coach to help us become better. Get a coach who is going to be willing to work with you both before, during, and after your next negotiation.

Although negotiating can be a complex and difficult undertaking, the good news is that we can all become better at it. First we need to acknowledge that we are not perfect and that we can all improve. Once we admit that, we can take steps to become better and by doing so we’ll be able to get the best deals possible.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Negotiating Skills™

Question For You: When you are looking for a negotiating coach, do you think that it is important that they work in the same industry as you?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

If there is one thing that all negotiators know and understand is that in order to be able to reach a deal with the other side, you first have to be able to trust them. We also understand that during the course of a negotiation, trust is something that may develop naturally over time. However, sometimes we can’t wait that long. If we don’t trust the other side, we can still make safe deals with them. These types of deals will involve using our negotiation styles and negotiating techniques to make few concessions, few tradeoffs, and we won’t share very much information with the other side. However, deals like this may mean that we are missing out on big opportunities. What we need to do is to find way to build trust on the fly…