Six ways to get better at negotiating

Negotiations happen every day – at work and at home. It may be a discussion with your partner as to who’s cooking dinner or picking up the children from school. Alternatively, it could be a discussion with your boss about a pay rise. Knowing how to negotiate is a life skill that everyone needs because bad negotiation outcomes can have big consequences.

For example, if you’re buying a house and you aren’t able to negotiate a good price, you’ll end up paying more than the house is worth. In a work context, if you don’t have the confidence to state what you want, you’ll end up agreeing to things you don’t want to do. Neither situation makes for a happy and fulfilled life. Here are six negotiating tips to get you started:

  1. It’s not all about you 

Negotiating isn’t just about getting everything you want. Negotiations involve compromise, and so you need to know what really matters to you, and what you’re willing to trade off to get that.

Take the time to understand the options available and how your proposal could satisfy the other person’s needs.

  1. Don’t ask – don’t get 

Know what you want from the negotiation, and don’t be afraid to ask for it. Be deliberate about your needs and when you ask about them. Timing can be crucial, as a negotiation’s starting position can anchor the remainder of the conversation.

  1. Back yourself 

Step up and into your personal power, and have the courage and conviction to back yourself every step of the way. You have the right to express your wants and needs. Negotiations often take unexpected turns, and it’s very easy for the situation to escalate, so make sure you negotiate when you are in the best frame of mind. Don’t negotiate when you’re tired, and if you find your mind racing, focus on breathing, and breathing deeply. This gives time for your nerves to relax and your heart rate to slow down, making it easier to reflect and respond calmly.

  1. Be prepared

Think about how the negotiation process will unfold, and the steps required to secure an agreement. Consider each of these steps, in advance of the discussion, and be curious as to how they may play out. Running through possible scenarios and outcomes will enable you to respond better to issues or objections that come up during the discussion. Importantly, seek to understand the other people involved – their operating style, agenda, needs and what they care about. The more you understand those involved, the greater insights you’ll have into what they are likely to support or reject.

  1. Take the long view

Negotiating effectively is much easier if you have a good relationship with the other people involved. So build your network early and always take the long-term view. You want both parties to the negotiation to walk away from the process with their dignity intact and feeling as though they have done well. If someone feels ill-treated through a negotiation, even if an agreement has been reached, there will be longer-term ramifications.

  1. Seek common ground

If you go in with the perspective “I’m right, they’re wrong” and are not willing to find common ground, you’re unlikely to make much progress. It’s much more productive to approach the negotiation from a basis of mutual respect and a willingness to consider different ideas and options.

So if you want to have more influence over decisions that affect your work and life, it’s time to get comfortable with negotiating.

About the author:

Michelle Gibbings is a change and leadership expert, and founder of Change Meridian. She works with global leaders and teams to help them accelerate progress in complex environments. She is the author of Step Up: How to Build Your Influence at Work.  For more information go to or email [email protected]