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The Art of Negotiation

Negotiation forms an integral part of our daily relationships, whether it be getting a major supplier to agree on terms and conditions, an investor to provide the funding you need, securing the best price on a new car or getting your kids to go to bed at a reasonable hour!

Whilst it’s a skill that comes naturally to some, it can be a taxing and anxiety-filled process for many of us, particularly where the stakes are high. The best negotiators come prepared, are clear communicators and can control their emotions. 

We explored:
•    How to prepare for & control the negotiation before it begins
•    How best to communicate
•    How to control your emotions including anxiety, anger, sadness and disappointment
•    Strategies for negotiating where the relationship is long term versus short term
•    Strategies for negotiating in group situations

With Panellists:
Fabian Courtaux – The Trustred Negotiator
Tina Lavranos
Jim Lewis
Moderated by Bec Kempster

The Insights…

What preparation should you be doing prior to entering a negotiation?

Prepare for at least the following:

  1. The deal – understand what is it your negotiating and establish your limits or reservation price. This requires considering more than money
  2. The dialogue – what’s the tone and intention you’re going to set? On average you have 7 seconds before someone forms an opinion of you. 
  3. Your team – who can you take and what roles can you play to maximize the benefits
  4. Learn about the players in the room and who’s the authority- Understand this and even have a discussion prior to the negotiation

It’s worth preparing for a range of negotiations in the future, not just the one in the immediate future. 

Ask yourself what is the best alternative to getting an outcome?  

What are the three questions you don’t want them to ask. Prepare answers for those so you’re able to give persuasive answers. Consider your weaknesses.

Prepare emotionally because much of what can occur in the room can be irrational behaviour. What is going to trigger you in the room? Triggers for individuals are often that which they deny in their shadow selves ie if you’re a control freak and someone’s acting in a controlling manner in the room, this may trigger you. Or if they’re exhibiting weakness this may also trigger you as you deny weakness in yourself and can’t accept in another person. 

Re-orientate yourself to the outcome you want – what are the two scenarios where you absolutely are attracted to the outcome, or you absolutely detest the outcome? Re-orientate yourself to the attractive outcome and imagine yourself already living with this outcome. This can take the edge off so you’re not as passionate and can cultivate a sense of detachment. 

Cultivate a practice of reflecting in action. Reconnect with your breath and what’s happening in the room so you can reflect on what’s going on in the negotiation and potentially shift the tone or conversation as you need to. 

What if the other parties are playing off each other?

Don’t engage in this if you see it unfolding. If you see it being used as a tactic then call it out – “we have limited time and limited resources, is this the game you want to play as we’re all going to lose.”
Alternatively stop the negotiation and instead have a negotiation on process. 

A negotiation on process should address:
1.    Boundary – what’s our time and territory
2.    Authority – how are you mandated, let’s each discuss our level of authority
3.    Role – what’s everyone’s role? Is there an assigned spokesperson? Equal time share?
4.    Task – what is the primary task of this group? Are we making a decision today or only negotiating on process, setting up a series of meetings?

How should you manage your emotions?

This is often dictated by your orientation towards conflict – you either crave it or run from it. 

At the end of the day you’re negotiating with people at a table who all have emotions. 

You also need to manage the other side’s emotion. Negotiation is like dancing – there’s always someone leading and someone following whether you’re conscious or unconscious of it. It is in your interest to be the one leading. 

What kind of different roles are useful in a negotiation team?

The Note Taker – clarifying, asking questions, steering the group back on track and confirming agreement on points. Calms things down. Invaluable

A Process Person. You will often lose control of the process. Helpful to have someone prepared to pull other team members in line and reflect and advise based on the process.

Negotiation coach – the best friend you need when things are going bad, who has your best interests at task. 

Look at your team’s psychological make up and for members that fill gaps in skills sets. If you are highly extroverted look for someone who’s more introverted. If you have high intuition on the team then look for someone who’s practical and detail focused.

Adopt a group metaphor for the other side. Are they the ‘mafia’ or ‘the army’? For example, for the latter you want a Senior Sergeant on your team. People in your team who can speak their language / behavior.

How do you renegotiate when there’s been a misunderstanding in what was agreed in the original negotiation?

When this arises address it immediately and discuss that area of the misunderstanding only. Don’t avoid the elephant in the room. Establish what can you offer to address this misunderstanding before having the conversation with the other party.  

Schedule reflection meetings regularly and consider a different setting for the conversation that shifts it from the usual protocol and habit. Because when habits occur, collusion within the group can occur. So if a problem arises you potentially ignore it as people have an aversion to difficult conversations.

In general, where there’s an opportunity for a relationship then you should foster it. People typically do more deals and better deals where there’s a sense of rapport. 

How to finish a negotiation?

Look at three things:
1.    Is everyone happy with the outcome? If not happy then you haven’t finished
2.    Is everyone ready to implement the deal?
3.    Is the relationship enhanced?

Recommendations around using lawyers and when to get them involved
Lawyers are necessary, at the very least for drafting the final agreement.

For serious negotiations take a lawyer if it’s financially viable. Make sure you’re clear on how people who are supporting you are supporting your actual interests. People can often evacuate their authority to lawyers. 

Look for commercial intelligence, sector expertise. Question their ideology on negotiations to ensure their belief system aligns with yours. Bargain on price – don’t pay the hourly rate!

Authority vs Power

Beware of giving up your authority in a negotiation and deferring to power. Authority and power are very different things. How do you orientate yourself towards power in the room? How do maintain authority in the face of power in a negotiation? Be really clear on the interests you’re trying to protect.

How can you negotiate when the parties have differing values?

You can have different values and reasons for the relationship, so long as your interests are aligned and compatible. 

Alternatively, view the negotiation from the perspective of can I do the best I can with the resources I have. Can I be a mouthpiece for my values back into this organisation? Ultimately you need to accept the values of that system in which you are operating in. 


Recognise that negotiation doesn’t need to be about fighting and win-lose. Conflict is inevitable and not necessarily a bad thing. It can be energising and strengthen relationships if managed in a functional way. 

Final tips

•    Focus on your Achilles heel
•    Approach with curious enquiry
•    Be realistic
•    Get a coach
•    Recognise the needs of the other side
•    Test assumptions

And finally…

… Rather than fighting for a slice of the pie, look at whether, together, you can make the pie bigger!


Getting to Yes with Yourself (& other worthy opponents) by William Ury