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Negotiations and how they can deepen your business relationships

I used to think about negotiations as the way children can view the big fight over that favourite toy at nursery…the strongest person wins. Or like the times when purchasing a property where it results in ultimatums such as “this is my final offer and it is valid for 24 hrs only”. Don’t get me wrong, in some situations, these techniques are needed and do work but when building longer-term relationships, a different tack is needed.

If any of you are watching the current TV series with Idris Elba in it called Hijack, you may be as gripped as I am to see what happens next! Idris Elba plays Sam Nelson, a world-class negotiator. Sam uses tactics such as putting himself in the hijacker's shoes, making it clear that he empathises with them and even offers to help them.

Watching the character Sam Nelson, makes me reflect on a powerful coaching tool called Perceptual Positioning (originally formulated by John Grinder and Judith De Lozier, 1987) which I have used with my coaching clients. It has helped my clients see the wood from the trees, gain insight into the other person’s perspective, step back as an observer to the situation and therefore be in a better position to implement a successful outcome.

So here are my favourite TIPS for getting closer to what you want when negotiating as well as strengthening those relationships at work in the process:

1. GAIN INFORMATION AS TO WHAT IS IMPORTANT TO THE OTHER PERSON. Things are not always as they seem. By staying open minded and curious, you may discover a golden nugget which is important to the other person and you can help them with.

2. MIRROR. Really listen to what the other person is saying. Give a moment of silence after hearing what they have said, and summarise what you hear is important to them. Doing so shows respect and empathy which starts to create a bond.

The other benefit to “mirroring” is that when people hear back what they have said, this enables them to reflect within that moment on what they really want. Author and ex-FBI negotiator Christopher Voss shares an example in his fantastic book “Never Split the Difference” where an employee replays back to her boss “So you would like me to do XYZ?”. Each time she mirrors the line manager's request, the line manager responds with a watered-down request, as they re-think what is really necessary. The result for the employee? a protected to-do list!

3. PEOPLE LIKE TO FEEL PART OF THE PROCESS, so demonstrate that you recognise their needs are important and you want to work together. Think about Hilary Clinton’s failed campaign “I’m with Her”, she put herself as the sole hero in the story versus Trump’s “Make America great again”. People like to be part of the process and feel valued.

4. ALWAYS GIVE OPTIONS so that people feel they have choices. Ensure you take time to brainstorm what these could be. These could include longer term, progress based tiering options. When providing options, DO NOT SHOW YOUR CARDS as to which one is your preference, people will smell this and may not want to give you this within the negotiation

5. PLAY THE LONG GAME. I naturally want everything yesterday but this is the WRONG strategy when negotiating. People will sense that you are under time pressure. It’s easier for people to bow to time pressures but hold back on some of the value by giving you your quick deal.

6. BE WILLING TO WALK AWAY. You have to be able to walk away if things do not go to plan. Simply having this mindset radiates strength.

So next time you are struggling to agree on something with a client, colleague, line manager or other, ask yourself the following questions:

1. If I had a blank piece of paper, what are all the possible options I could brainstorm about this situation? Then narrow down your preferred outcome.

2. What is important to the other person (and if you are not sure ask them)? What do they need? How may they be seeing things and feeling? Are there any hidden points of value being offered which they are not fully aware of?

3. What do they think is important to me? Is this accurate and what impression do I want to give?

4. How can I build a longer-term relationship with them by showing them respect? Am I giving them space after they finish talking and reflecting on what they have said?

If you would like coaching support when it comes to improving your negotiation or relationship skills, or another career topic - please book a no obligation call at

magnifying glass. Gaining perspective during negotiations.
Gaining perspective during negotiations.

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