What Makes a Good Negotiator?

Have you ever wondered what makes a good negotiator?

This is a question that many people before me have tried to answer. It turns out that there are many different answers depending on who you ask.

I believe that this is the wrong question to ask… here’s why. I believe that it would be far better to wonder about what makes a good negotiator within a specific discipline rather than what makes a good negotiator in a generic sense.

It would make more sense to ask what makes a good sales negotiator, purchasing negotiator, labour negotiator, contract negotiator, conflict resolution negotiator etc. You see, it doesn’t follow that because you are great at conflict resolution that you would be a great purchasing negotiator just as it doesn’t make sense that because you are good at golf that you would also be good at tennis.

Wondering about what makes a great negotiator is too general a question to be useful. Let me explain what I mean by further using a sporting analogy.

Do you know what makes a good sportsperson?

- A positive mind-set?

- A strong belief in their own ability to succeed?

Of course it would be important to know, master and apply the principles of good sportsmanship no matter what sport you participate in, but in addition to this you would need to master the best practices, strategies, techniques and tactics unique to your specific sports discipline (tennis, golf etc.).

If you are a golfer or tennis player, it would be far more useful for you to know what makes a good golfer or tennis player rather than only obtaining an answer as to what makes a good sportsperson.

For far too long academic institutions and training providers have been turning out ‘good negotiators’ rather than great, discipline specific, negotiators. This means that negotiation skills have been taught on a generic level without a focus on the application of the strategies, best practices, techniques and tactics within a specific negotiation discipline.

It is simply not true that all negotiation principles, best practices and techniques hold the same value no matter what type of negotiation you are involved in. You should most definitely be deploying different strategies and tactics if you are negotiating with a provider of a commodity based product within a commercial environment than you would deploy if you are seeking to reach a long term mutually beneficial outcome in a political negotiation.

If you wanted to develop your negotiation skills, it would still make sense to attend generic negotiation skills development training workshops just as it would make sense to attend a general workshop on the principles that underpin great sportsmanship if you desired to be a professional golfer.

What won’t make sense though is to expect that a generic negotiation training workshop will equip you with the specific tools, techniques, strategies and tactics you need within your specific discipline (sales, purchasing, conflict resolution etc.).

So here is an important piece of advice – if you are looking to further develop your negotiation skills, make sure that you hone those skills within a learning environment that is specifically tailored to your discipline.

This way you will extract far more value from your investment of time and effort.

Effective Negotiation


The whole cosmic economy is interactive phenomenon of animate and inanimate objects. In addition, the objects are interdependent on each other for growth and survival. Human beings are epitome of Divine Creative Activity. The interactive feature of mankind is vital aspect of Divine Scheme of Creation. A rational-moral human interaction quickens / softens evolution of individuals & groups. Mankind faces multiple challenges during varied interactions. The most complex, harmful, and frequent problem of interactive life is miscommunication. It creates mutual hatred and distrust among individuals / groups / nations and leads towards conspiracies, rivalries, and wars. The very basis of miscommunication are Perceptual Errors.Perceptual errors produce misconception among individuals / groups so that miscommunication is surfaced. Consequently, the people involved brake contacts with each other and opt long silence or confrontation or indifference. The unwanted situation can be solved through negotiation. Negotiation is helpful in every sphere of interactive life; it is used to bridge the gaps between husband and wife, parents and children, entrepreneurs and workers, business partners, political leaders, etc. In order to realize successful negotiation we must understand ins and outs of negotiation. Negotiation is the conflict management process of communication to make a compromise/better solution.The successful negotiation is called Effective Negotiation. Effective negotiation is knowledge based, manner driven, and wisdom led negotiation. It creates pragmatic and satisfactory solutions for each party.


Man is intelligent creation of Absolute Intelligence. The distinctive human trait, intellect or perceptual intelligence, make the human being supreme creation of universe. But, intellect can misjudge/misinterpret due to ignorance or lustful tendencies of human nature. Perceptual errors or intellectual mistakes lead to biases in information processing / final judgments. There may arise three types of perceptual errors in a communication process.

Generalization: -Small amount of information are used to draw universal conclusions, e.g., old people are conservative, this person is old so that is conservative, or a humble person is judged to be more honest than a scowling person, even there is no consistent relationship between conservativeness & age or courtesy and honesty. The multiple social rifts such as family rifts and neighborhood rifts are surfaced due to unscientific generalizations.

Projection: -It occurs when people ascribe to others the characteristics or feelings that they have, for instance, a person feels that he will be frustrated if he were in the other position, then he is likely to perceive that the other person is frustrated. People respond differently to similar situations so that projection of own feeling to other may be incorrect. The multiple political mis-communications are generally due to wrong projections.

Power: – Power is an important leverage during interactions; it gives edge to one party over the other. Power develops the perception that you have power and you can impose a verdict, the power-perception limits viable options or can make someone wrongdoer, because, power has germs of corruption-development – in Acton’s words, ‘Power tends to corrupt and absolute powers corrupts absolutely.’ The major sources of power are – Information and Expertise, Control over resources, Location / Position in an organization. Power tactics should be used only as last resort. Ignoring temporal suitability of power tactics may create chaos in the environment; a chaotic situation has certain aftermath for the power user.


The prominent characteristics of a negotiation process are:

Interdependence: – In negotiation both parties need each other to arrive at some solution. This situation is called interdependence. Interdependence leads towards mutual adjustments during negotiation.

Mutual Adjustments: – Negotiating parties know that they can influence the other’s outcome and the other can in turn, influence their outcome. This mutual adjustment continues through out the negotiating process. Mutual Adjustments persuade the negotiating parties towards flexibility and concessions.

Flexibility and Concession: – Flexibility and concession is necessary for a settlement. In order to arrive at some acceptable outcome, it is essential to know what we want and what we are prepared to give to get something. It sounds simple but most people enter negotiations without planning their desired outcomes and believe that it is a matter of power or tactics The lopsided approach may lead towards failure. It is noteworthy that a lenient approach on concessions may lead towards unfair demands while strict approach towards concessions may create angry environ. An optimal mix of perceptual intelligence, emotional intelligence, & intentional intelligence is invoked for honest/accurate flexibility and concessions. A negotiation generally encounters two dilemmas:

  • Dilemma of Honesty: -The dilemma is concerned how much of the truth is to tell to other party. On the one hand, telling the person everything about your situation may give that person the opportunity to take advantage of you. On the other hand, not telling the other person anything about your needs and desires may lead to a deadlock due to lack of information. A principle stand towards information sharing is extremely effective for successful negotiation. It is noteworthy that the forgery of information/emotions is uncovered ultimately.
  • Dilemma of Trust: – The second dilemma is concerned with how much to believe of what the other party tells you. If you believe everything that the other party says, he/she may take advantage of you. If you believe nothing, there would be deadlock. The trust depends on many factors such as reputation of party, past experiences, and present circumstances. The principle, “truth is ever green” is very much relevant for successful negotiation; otherwise one has to speak countless lies to conceal one lie even then truth is exposed ultimately.


There is no standard and scientific pattern of successful negotiation; however, a general outline can be prepared to start any negotiation.

Framing: -It is the conceptual platform by which the parties in a negotiation define the problem. For example, Kashmir issue between India and Pakistan can be negotiated on religious frame or on historical frame.

Goal Setting: -It gives foundation to negotiation. It is necessary for successful negotiation. Goal setting includes stating goals, setting goal priorities, identifying multi-goal packages.

Planning: -Effective planning requires hard work on number of steps, such as:

  • Defining Issues, (agenda) – Controlling the number and size of issues in the discussion,
  • Desirability of the defined issues – Enhancing the desirability of the options and alternatives that each party presents to the other,
  • Define Common interests / needs – Establishing a common ground on which the parties can find a basis for agreement on issues,
  • Research – It includes consulting related stakeholders, gathering information, developing supporting arguments, and analyzing the party.

Developing Strategy: -Strategy is an intentional work-pattern to achieve some goals. It is based on good planning. Strategy formulation modal of effective negotiation identify four elements to formulate effective strategies:

  • Choice: – negotiation is voluntary, i.e., a matter of choice and the solution cannot be imposed.
  • Constraints: – Negotiation outcomes are subject to some constraints. The modal suggests pragmatism over doctrine.
  • Interdependence: – Parties motives are interdependent,
  • Imperfect Information: – Parties have imperfect information about each others strengths / weaknesses.


Distributive Negotiation

In win-lose / distributive bargaining parties seek their own maximum advantage through concealing information, misleading or using manipulative tactics. All these actions may lead towards bitterness or hostility. It is noteworthy that effective negotiation is an attempt to resolve a conflict with reason or without force. The second type of distributive bargaining is accommodative or lose-win strategy. One party is ready for some loss for the time being or in short run to achieve some long-run benefits.

Integrative Negotiation

It is win-win / cooperative negotiation. It allows both sides to achieve their goals. The multiple business links such as partnership and varied social linkages such as kinship are generally based on win-win approach, i.e., both parties get benefits from contact. The approach behind integrative negotiation is synergy, i.e., to expand/create possibilities so that benefits will be increased for all parties.


Negotiation is extremely complex phenomena. It demands knowledge, wisdom, and courtesy to arrive at some acceptable outcome for the negotiating parties. The decision-making process in negotiation passes through four phases:

Orientation - In orientation phase, group members socialize, set up certain rules of communication, and agree on their reason for meeting.

Conflict - In the conflict phase, parties begin to discuss their positions on the problem, the environment is filled with arguments / confrontation / war of words.

Emergence - In the emergence phase, members arrive at some acceptable solution and put aside the differences and objections because they are convinced.

Reinforcement - In the reinforced phase, group feelings are rebuilt, outcomes of negotiation are summarized for each party, and solution is implemented in a way to block future conflicts.

The negotiating parties come up with three solutions – win-win, win-lose, and lose-win. The principle behind the win-win strategy is that the parties in conflict can better solve their problem by working together than by waging war. The principle behind the win-lose strategy is that the parties in conflict can reap more benefits by manipulating the situation than by developing consensus. The decision about manipulation should be based on pure reason subject to certain moral values. Otherwise, it would be harmful for manipulator. The principle behind the lose-win or accommodative strategy is that the one party in conflict can reap more benefits in the long run by accommodating the other party in the short run. The decision about accommodative bargain should be based on pure reason subject to certain scientific evaluation; otherwise, it may be harmful for the accommodating party.

Turbocharge Your Sales Presentation – Open With a Grabber and Close With a Win

According to scientific research, an audience gives a presenter between 15 seconds to 2 minutes before deciding whether or not it is worth paying attention. If that’s true–and we have no reason to believe it is not–we must wonder why so many presenters waste their most important minutes looking and sounding like everyone else.

We’ve all heard the standard lacklustre opening that goes something like, “Thank you for inviting me. My name is fill-in-the-blank and I am here to represent fill-in-the-blank.” Then follows a lot of boring and inconsequential background trivia. Indeed, it is a shocking reality that most presenters willingly and foolishly fritter away their golden moments. Perhaps they fear looking different. Maybe attracting attention raises an alarm. Then too, it could simply be a lack of imagination and smarts.

Whatever the reason, if you want to differentiate yourself from the competition–and rise above them–don’t you dare do it. First grab your audience. Then, when they are paying rapt attention, you can tell them who you are.

Imagine you sell privacy software. You could open with a story about a deep sea photographer who survived his last dive because he was saved by a shark cage. Then you might say something like: and that’s what we do for you. Our software is like a safety cage that protects you from predators. Or imagine you are an investment firm hoping to convince an audience to invest with you. Your opening could be a newspaper report about a farmer who won the biggest pumpkin contest at the state fair because he knew precisely what it takes to make pumpkins grow big. “And that’s what we do for you,” you would say. “We know exactly what it takes to protect your investment and grow it bigger than anyone else.”

Of course, you don’t have to open with a story. You could open by teaching your audience a simple musical round–and conducting them. Then you could say, “That’s what we do when we consult with you. We make things work in harmony.”

Clearly, the number of ways to begin is limited only by your imagination. The key to a high-impact opening is to conclude it with a big point that leads smoothly to your Big Message. Your Big Message, of course, is the most important thing you want your audience to remember about you. It is that strong statement that conveys your brand promise to the world.

No matter how you choose to open, do not give your opener any preamble. Do not start by saying, “Before I begin I want to tell you a story,” or anything remotely similar. Be bold. Be confident. Simply stand up and plunge in. Once you have completed your opening and stated your message, then you may do the “Hello. My name is…” routine. And not before.

A great opening should take no more than three or four minutes. And please be fearless. Any and every audience is delighted by a well conceived, charming or entertaining opening–no matter how stuffy or conservative you may think they are.

So, here are 21 ways to grab your audience right at the opening.

  1. tell a story
  2. show an interesting quote from an interesting person
  3. read a news report
  4. post a startling statistic
  5. play a game
  6. do a magic trick
  7. show a video clip
  8. conduct a group musical introduction
  9. do card trick
  10. display a stunning visual
  11. use a toy
  12. announce a little known fact
  13. demonstrate a mind-reading trick
  14. sing a song
  15. use a puzzle
  16. take photos and display them
  17. build something
  18. recite a poem
  19. assemble a pie
  20. play an instrument
  21. talk about the weather

You’ll notice I do not suggest opening with a joke. Very few people tell jokes well and they are usually called comedians. Besides, most jokes are sure to offend someone–so it’s best not to tell jokes.

When you open with a grabber, your audience pays attention. Keep them interested with good organization, engaging slides and appropriate stories. (See my article: How to Organize a PowerPoint Sales Presentation – 7 Easy Steps For a Perfect Pitch.) Then close by circling back to your opening point and restating your Big Message.

Chances are good you’ll get a standing ovation. Chances are even better you’ll win the sale.