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Negotiating more effectively

Dr. Simon Moss


This page specifies some tactics that individuals can apply when they negotiate matters with managers, employees, customers, suppliers, and other people.

Negotiation training and development

Capacity to develop negotiation skills

Step 1. To improve negotiation ability, individuals first need to be convinced that such a skill can be cultivated and is not fixed or innate. To achieve this goal, doubts about the ability to develop this skill need to be identified and redressed.

For instance, some individuals might express the concern that many of the tactics to improve negotiation seem complex and difficult to remember. To redress this doubt, they need to be informed that many of these tactics become automatic after practice and are not as difficult as they appear.

In addition, other individuals might be concerned that negotiation ability depends on personality, which seems fixed rather than malleable. In response, they need to be informed that tactics have been developed to suit different personalities, such as strategies that are more effective if someone is shy.

If employees feel the capacity to negotiate effectively can be developed, and is not fixed, they tend to perform more effectively in negotiations--especially when impediments arise or when they recognize their abilities in this endeavor are limited (Kray & Haselhuhn, 2007). That is, some individuals feel the capacity to negotiate effectively is fixed, even innate. If these individuals are confident, they will devote considerable effort into the negotiation process. If these individuals are unconfident, however, perhaps because an impasse was reached, their effort declines dramatically& they do not feel they can change the situation (see also Implicit theories of malleability).

Reflections on the past

Step 2. Several hours or days after individuals engage in some negotiation, they should reflect upon an additional remark they could have expressed--or some action they could have undertaken--that might have enhanced their performance. They should not, however, reflect upon remarks or actions they regretted.

Deliberations over additional actions that individuals would like to have undertaken tends to activate a focus on possible opportunities in the future--a state of mind that enhances creativity and perhaps insight (Kray, Galinsky, & Markman, 2009). Deliberations over the behaviors that individuals now regret activate a focus on minimizing shortcomings, which curbs creativity and insight. As a consequence, individuals do not derive key lessons from their experiences.

Preparation before a negotiation

Identify their interests

Step 1. Immediately before negotiations, reflect upon the thoughts, interests, and purposes of your opponent. For example, identify the issues that are most likely to be vital to your opponent as well as their rationale, pressures, constraints, and so forth. To illustrate, employees might need to negotiate their pay, work hours, entitlements, develop opportunities, and role with their manager. These employees might recognize the manager might be more concerned with conserving the budget but also want to show they are innovative. This approach is especially viable when approximately three to six issues are likely to be discussed during the negotiation.

Before negotiations, individuals who reflect upon the thoughts, interests, and purposes of their opponent are more likely to achieve their desired outcomes. In particular, they can more effectively identify issues they could sacrifice to secure a concession from the other person (Galinsky, Maddux, Gilin, & White, 2008).

In contrast, individuals who instead reflect upon the possible feelings and emotions of their opponent are more empathic and likeable but are less inclined to achieve their desired outcomes& they are often too obliging. In particular, when individuals reflect upon the thoughts, interests, and purposes of their opponent they feel slightly detached from this issue, diminishing anxiety and improving their capacity to integrate the various issues. That is, because their anxiety diminishes, they do not consider only their own immediate needs, and hence seem more creative.

Identify your aspirations

Step 2. Immediately before you engage in a negotiation, first consider all your hopes and aspirations--such as the position you would like to reach in two years. During the negotiation, every few minutes, attempt to recall the ideal outcome you would like to achieve.

Individuals who consider their hopes and aspirations for the future--or imagine the ideal outcome they would like to achieve--are more likely to negotiate effectively (Galinsky, Leonardelli, Okhuysen, & Mussweiler, 2005). To demonstrate, consider employees who need to purchase a computer that is usually sold at $1000. In these instances, employees are sometimes aware of their obligations and duties at work. When individuals focus on their obligations, they inadvertently consider the maximum amount they are willing to spend, such as $900. As a consequence, they do not strive vigorously to spend significantly less than $900.

In contrast, employees might instead focus more on their aspirations and hopes for the future. When individuals focus on their aspirations, they inadvertently consider an ideal outcome, such as $500 (see also Regulatory focus theory). They hence become more likely to strive vigorously to spend significantly less than $900. For example, their initial offer will tend to be significantly lower than $900, which increases the likelihood they will receive a favorable outcome.

Identify the issues you will compromise

Step 3. Whenever you negotiate with someone, attempt to ascertain which features the other person does not regard as important. This person will become more likely to concede on some other facet if you offer to eliminate this unimportant feature.

To illustrate, consider a supervisor who needs to negotiate with a job applicant. The supervisor might discover the job applicant is not interested in paternal leave. The job applicant might assert "$50,000 per year is not enough& I would prefer $60,000". The supervisor could then offer "I can give you $55,000, but then I will have to remove paternal leave". The job applicant is more likely to agree with this offer compared to the same proposition but without any reference to the paternal leave.

Individuals are sometimes willing to pay more for some product or service, such as pay TV, if irrelevant features are excluded, such as channels they do not like (Liberman & Ross, 2006). For example, they might be willing to pay $40 per month for five channels they like, but only $30 for the same five channels coupled with a wrestling channel they do not like.

This tendency arises because individuals often consider the extent to which a product or service matches their idiosyncratic needs to evaluate its utility. Indeed, if individuals are informed that most customers enjoy the wrestling channel, they feel unique in their aversion to this sport. Hence, they feel that a package in which wrestling is excluded is particularly consistent with their idiosyncratic needs and they will, therefore, pay more for this option.

Identify the most compelling arguments

Step 4.Sometimes, individuals need to negotiate with someone who is more senior, such as an executive. They might, for example, want to request leave to visit an ill parent, even though, perhaps, the policies do not permit this leave.

In these instances, individuals should not seek exceptions or allude to the magnitude or gravity of the circumstances. They should not, for example, present arguments like "I know this request contravenes the regulations, but nobody else can attend to my mother, who is clinically depressed". Instead, they should attempt to demonstrate how their request might be consistent with a policy. They could maintain "Because of her illness, I am suffering from anxiety, and thus I seek extended sick leave".

When managers feel a sense of power and authority, they like to maintain their status. Policies and regulations, like "Sick leave can be approved only if individuals are granted a medical certificate" usually maintain the existing positions of authority. Managers thus tend to embrace policies and regulations. They reject arguments that refer to exceptions or idiosyncratic features of a scenario (Lammers & Stapel, 2009), such as "But, I am too ill to visit a doctor".

In contrast, when individuals do not feel a sense of power and authority, they are more compelled by arguments that refer to exceptions or idiosyncratic features. They overestimate the extent to which their allusions to these exceptions might sway managers (Lammers & Stapel, 2009).

Behavior during preliminary discussions

Expression of emotions

Step 1. During negotiations, express your emotions, such as "You can imagine I would feel anxious if the pay was too low". As a consequence, your opponent becomes more empathic, which increases their tendency to act obligingly (Galinsky, Maddux, Gilin, & White, 2008).

That is, individuals who reflect upon the possible feelings and emotions of their opponent are more empathic and likeable but are less inclined to achieve their desired outcomes& they are often too obliging. When individuals reflect upon the possible feelings and emotions of their opponent, their own desires are often disregarded. That is, they experience the anxiety or concerns of their opponent and, as a consequence, focus only on the needs of this person (Galinsky, Maddux, Gilin, & White, 2008).

Disclosure of interests

Step 1. Sometimes, you need to negotiate with someone who is similar to you--similar role, education, or objective. In these instances, you should share your interests. You might claim "My main goal is to seek enough money to pay for 10 staff". In contrast, in other instances, you need to negotiate with someone who is clearly different to you. Their role, education, and so forth differ from your own. In these instances, you should conceal you main interests, goals, and motivations.

During negotiations, when individuals share their interests, values, and goals with one another, they are more likely to concede and compromise effectively, but not in all circumstances. In particular, if the opponents share the same occupation, or show other similarities, sharing their interests can improve the outcomes of negotiations. Individuals feel a sense of trust (Harinck & Ellemers, 2006). In contrast, if the individuals are very different to one another, they do not expect their opponent to share these interests (Harinck & Ellemers, 2006). Hence, when opponents do share their interests, values, and goals, their expectations are violated, provoking a sense of suspicion rather than trust. When individuals feel suspicious, they become less open and more manipulative, which undermines the capacity of individuals in a negotiation to uncover a solution that satisfies all of their needs.

Step 2. Always concede rather than conceal your deadline to your opponent, especially if this deadline is tight. Contrary to popular opinion, when employees inform their opponents of the time or date in which they need to reach an agreement, they are more likely to receive favorable outcomes from negotiations (Moore, 2004).

To clarify, consider a male supplier who wants to sell a product for $100. In addition, suppose the female customer offers only $80, but knows she must purchase the product within one week. If the customer concedes rather than conceals this deadline, the supplier inadvertently considers the possibility that he might not be able to sell the product. His confidence wanes& he thus unwittingly assumes that $100 is too expensive and therefore is inclined to offer a lower price. Most employees, however, tend to conceal their deadlines from their opponent.

Behavior during bargaining

Expression of emotions

Step 1. During negotiations, after offers have been proposed, either display your frustration with an offer or specify that another person, perhaps a senior supervisor, will be angry. For example you could seek the assistance of a colleague while bargaining. Assert to your opponent, "I will need to ask one of my colleagues, whose skills in negotiation are considerably more advanced than mine, to be involved in this discussion." As a consequence, the opponent will perceive this colleague as competitive rather than cooperative and will thus become more likely to accept offers.

This colleague should demonstrate subtle anger--but false appreciation--towards the first offer you receive. For example, this colleague could initially frown or widen both eyes to demonstrate surprise and disappointment. Within a few seconds, however, this colleague should act courteously with statements such as, "I'll give that some thought. I appreciate your offer." This approach, however, is not suitable if the opponent is likely to feel powerful.

During negotiations, when one individual exhibits anger, the opponent is more likely to concede or compromise--but only if this person does not feel powerful (Van Kleef, De Dreu, Pietroni, & Manstead, 2006). In particular, individuals sometimes seem angry, frustrated, or enraged during a negotiation. In response, the opponents inadvertently feel their offer was perhaps inappropriate. They almost unconsciously then identify reasons that supports this contention, and hence tend to feel compelled to propose a more reasonable offer (Van Kleef, De Dreu, & Manstead, 2004).

This tendency to concede, however, subsides if the opponents feel a sense of power (Van Kleef, De Dreu, Pietroni, & Manstead, 2006). They might, for example, be more senior, experienced, or nonchalant about the outcome. When individuals feel a sense of power, the emotions that someone else exhibits is less likely to influence their own behavior. They will be, therefore, immune to the anger of their opponent.

Specific requests

Step 2. If you want to propose a realistic offer, ensure the proposal is surprisingly precise. If you seek $20,000 to complete some project, perhaps request $20,550 instead. . These unconventional requests have been shown to engage and convince the other individual (Santos, Leve, & Pratkanis, 1994 & see also Disrupt then reframe).

Schedules and conditions


Step 1. Ideally, negotiations should not be interrupted. If interruptions are inevitable, because the negotiations need to be adjourned for some reason, mediators must ensure the various parties do not reflect on the proceedings that day. The parties could, for example, be asked to identify possible compromises: they could attempt to identify issues they do not perceive as vital and could, thus, sacrifice.

After an interruption during a negotiation, individuals will tend to become more competitive. This tendency, however, diminishes if individuals are distracted during the pause--or if they read articles that include words that are synonymous with cooperation rather than competition. In particular, during a pause, individuals tend to reflect upon their strategies. These reflections tend to align to their emotions. For example, if frustrated, most of their reflections relate to issues that correspond to frustration. Hence, these reflections reinforce, and indeed escalate, their emotions.

Usually, individuals will feel mildly frustrated during a negotiation, and thus will feel very irritated after a pause. As a consequence, they become more competitive (Harinck & De Dreu, 2008). Distracting tasks, fortunately, tend to preclude these deliberations. Alternatively, incidental exposure to words that are synonymous with cooperation, such as altruism or support, also curb these competitive inclinations.


Step 2. During negotiations, to ensure your opponent is flexible, meet in a relaxing atmosphere and ensure that time is not limited. When individuals feel the need to reach decisions rapidly--a tendency that time pressure, noise, and other stressful factors in the environment promotes--they become less flexible and compromising during negotiations (DeDreu, Koole, & Oldersma, 1999& see Need for closure).

This rigidity is especially pronounced if they perceive their opponent to be experienced in business and competitive in nature. In particular, when stressed, individuals do not like to consider issues carefully& they prefer to reach decisions rapidly and do not adapt their original position. As a consequence, they do not evaluate other individuals carefully. Instead, they tend to use stereotypes to judge other individuals. If someone else seems experienced in business, they will apply the stereotype that commercial employees tend to be competitive. They will, therefore, themselves act competitively rather than cooperatively.


Step 3. Attempt to negotiate as early as possible rather than delay the discussion. In addition, encourage your opponent to consider the distant rather than immediate future. You could, for example ask, "What are you attempting to achieve during the next two years".

Individuals are more likely to negotiate effectively with each other--identifying an outcome that satisfies both parties--if the outcome of this dispute will not be implemented for several months or if they imagine their lives in the future (Henderson, Trope, & Carnevale, 2006). Specifically, when individuals consider the immediate consequences of a negotiation, they tend to focus on more specific details rather than broad concepts. As a consequence, they tend to consider each issue separately. For instance, if a supervisor is negotiating with a job applicant who is likely to begin in the next week, they will discuss each issue, such as pay, entitlements, training, bonuses, and so forth in sequence. In contrast, when individuals consider the future consequences of a negotiation, they become more inclined to focus on broader concepts and objectives. They will, therefore, be less concerned with minor issues. In addition, they can more readily integrate the various issues together.

Accordingly, individuals can more readily compromise on issues they do not perceive as vital to reap the benefits on other factors. The job applicant, for example, might agree to a lower wage--an issue this person might not perceive as critical--to receive more training.


DeDreu, C. K. V., Koole, S. L., & Oldersma, F. L. (1999). On the seizing and freezing of negotiator inferences: Need for cognitive closure moderates the use of heuristics in negotiation. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 25, 348-362.

Galinsky, A. D., Leonardelli, G. J., Okhuysen, G. A., & Mussweiler, T. (2005). Regulatory focus at the bargaining table: Promoting distributive and integrative success. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 31, 1087-1098.

Galinsky, A. D., Maddux, W. W., Gilin, D., & White, J. B. (2008). Why it pays to get inside the head of your opponent: The differential effects of perspective taking and empathy in negotiations. Psychological Science, 19, 378-384.

Harinck, F., & De Dreu, C. K. W. (2008). Take a break! or not? The impact of mindsets during breaks on negotiation processes and outcomes. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 44, 397-404.

Henderson, M. Trope, Y., & Carnevale, P. J. (2006). Negotiation from a near and distant time perspective. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 91, 712-729.

Kray, L. J., Galinsky, A. D., & Markman, K. D. (2009). Counterfactual structure and learning from experience in negotiations. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 45, 979-982.

Kray, L. J., & Haselhuhn, M. P. (2007). Implicit negotiation beliefs and performance: Experimental and longitudinal evidence. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 93, 49-64.

Lammers, J., & Stapel, D. A. (2009). How power influences moral thinking. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 97, 279-289.

Liberman, V., & Ross, L. (2006). Idiosyncratic matching and choice: When less is more. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 101, 168-183.

Moore, D. A. (2004). Myopic prediction, self-destructive secrecy, and the unexpected benefits of revealing final deadlines in negotiation. Organizational Behavior & Human Decision Processes, 94, 125-139.

Santos, M. D., Leve, C., & Pratkanis, A. R. (1994). Hey buddy, can you spare seventeen cents? Mindful persuasion and the pique technique. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 24, 755-764.

Van Kleef, G. A., De Dreu, C. K. W., & Manstead, A. S. R. (2004). The interpersonal effects of anger and happiness in negotiations. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 86, 57-76.

Van Kleef, G. A., De Dreu, C. K. W., Pietroni, D., & Manstead, A. S. R. (2006). Power and emotion in negotiation: Power moderates the effect of anger and happiness on concession making. European Journal of Social Psychology, 36, 557-581.

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Last Update: 5/11/2016