Mobile logo

Negotiation & Active listening



A. understand what negotiation is about;
B. prepare for a successful negotiation;
C. understand one of the key elements to successful negotiation: active listening;
D. know how you can improve your negotiation skills;
E. know how you can improve your litening skills;

We negotiate all the time, in our personal and social lives, and especially in our professional lives. Every time we communicate with another person there is the potential for negotiation.

     Time needed to review this content: 30 MIN

Negotiation is an essential life skill: key to personal and organisational success. However, there are many poor negotiators because they don’t understand the concept of negotiation. Many communication problems in negotiations are attributable to poor listening skills. Active listening is a negotiators best tool. Read about negotiation and active listening in this knowledge pill.
What is negotiation?

According the business dictionary negotiation is generally defined as:

“Bargaining (give and take) process between two or more parties (each with its own aims, needs and viewpoints) seeking to discover a common ground and reach an agreement to settle a matter of mutual concern or resolve a conflict. Noun of the verb negotiate.”

The give and take in the abovementioned definition is clearly reflected in the following quote about negotiation by John F. Kennedy:

“We cannot negotiate with people who say what’s mine is mine and what’s yours is negotiable”.

So a successful or win-win negotiation leads to a solution that is acceptable to both parties, and leaves both parties feeling that they’ve won, in some way, after the event. This helps people keep good working relationships afterwards.

Two powerful keys to successful negotiating are:
• Preparation
• Active listening

1.1. Preparation

Depending on the scale of the disagreement, some preparation may be appropriate for conducting a successful negotiation.
If you want to prepare thoroughly, think through the following points before you start negotiating:

• Goals: what do you want to get out of the negotiation? What do you think the other person wants?
• Trades: what do you and the other person have that you can trade? What do you each have that the other wants? What are you each comfortable giving away?
• Alternatives: if you don’t reach agreement with the other person, what alternatives do you have? Are these good or bad? How much does it matter if you do not reach agreement? Does failure to reach an agreement cut you out of future opportunities? And what alternatives might the other person have?
• Relationships: what is the history of the relationship? Could or should this history impact the negotiation? Will there be any hidden issues that may influence the negotiation? How will you handle these?
• Expected outcomes: what outcomes will people be expecting from this negotiation? What has the outcome been in the past, and what precedent have been set?
• The consequences: what are the consequences for you of winning or losing this negotiation? What are the consequences for the other person?
• Power: who has what power in the relationship? Who controls resources? Who stands to lose the most if agreement is not reached? What power does the other person have to deliver what you hope for?
• Possible solutions: based on all of the considerations, what possible compromises might there be?
You can use the free worksheet of MindTools for this.

The negotiation itself is a careful exploration of your position and the other person’s position, with the goal of finding a mutually acceptable compromise that gives you both as much of what you want as possible. Negotiation is not an arena for the realisation of individual achievements.
Ultimately, both sides should feel comfortable with the final solution if the agreement is to be considered win-win. Only consider a win-lose negotiation if you don’t need to have an ongoing relationship with the other party as, having lost, they are unlikely to want to work with you again.

1.2. Active listening

Basically, in any conversation or discussion or negotiation, listening is just as important, ore even more important, than talking. It is about understanding what the other person is saying. Many communication problems in negotiations are attributable to poor listening skills. Negotiators who are poor listeners miss numerous opportunities in their counterpart’s words. Negotiators often tend to run into two major pitfalls that hinder effective listening. First, many think that negotiating is primarily a job of persuasion, and to them persuasion means talking. They tend to forget that it is difficult to persuade other people when you don’t know what motivates these people. Second, people tend to over-prepare for wat they are going to say and to use their listening time waiting for their next turn to speak.

While anticipating their next change, they may miss vital information they could use later in the negotiation.
Some key characteristics of a good listener are:

• is motivated to listen
• does not interrupt
• shows interest
• pays careful attention
• is patient
• asks open questions
• repeats back what the other person has said
• is alert to nonverbal cues.

With these type of active negotiation listening skills you signal to the speaker that you are fully and actively engaged in what they have to share.

The best negotiators almost always turn out to be the best listeners as well!
In this animation video you’ll learn in one minute what negotiation is about.
"Negotiating is about give and take. It’s a means by which we compromise and agree a way forward. Developing an ongoing relationship is, that’s valuable to both parties."

In this animation video you’ll learn about 7 common pitfalls to avoid, including:

1. Poor planning
2. Thinking the pie is fixed
3. Failing to pay attention to your opponent
4. Assuming that cross-Cultural negotiations are just like local negotiations
5. Paying too much attention to anchors
6. Caving in too quickly
7. Don’t gloat

In this animation video you’ll get introduced by the 7 steps of (international) negotiation, including:

Step 1 Preparation
Step 2 Building relationships
Step 3 Exchanging information & first offer
Step 4 & 5 Persuasion & concession
Step 6 Agreement
Step 7 Post-agreement

Negotiation tips
TIP 1 Never accept any proposal immediately, no matter how good it sounds.
TIP 2 Never negotiate with yourself. Once you've made an offer, if the other party doesn't accept it, don't make another offer. Get a counter offer. It's a sign of weakness when you lower your own demands without getting your opponent to lower theirs.
TIP 3 Never cut a deal with someone who has to ‘go back and get the boss's approval.’ That gives the other side two bites of the apple to your one. They can take any deal you are willing to make and renegotiate it.
TIP 4 If you can't say yes, it's no. Just because a deal can be done, doesn't mean it should be done. No one ever went broke saying ‘no’ too often.
TIP 5 Just because it may look non-negotiable, doesn't mean it is. Take that beautifully printed ’standard contract’ you've just been handed. Many a smart negotiator has been able to name a term and get away with it by making it appear to be chiselled in granite, when they will deal if their bluff is called.
TIP 6 Do your homework before you deal. Learn as much as you can about the other side. Instincts are no match for information.
TIP 7 Rehearse. Practice. Get someone to play the other side. Then switch roles. Instincts are no match for preparation.
TIP 8 Beware the late dealer. Feigning indifference or casually disregarding timetables is often just a negotiator's way of trying to make you believe he/she doesn't care if you make the deal or not.
TIP 9 Be nice, but if you can't be nice, go away and let someone else do the deal. You'll blow it.
TIP 10 A deal can always be made when both parties see their own benefit in making it.
TIP 11 A dream is a bargain no matter what you pay for it. Set the scene. Tell the tale. Generate excitement. Help the other side visualize the benefits, and they'll sell themselves.
TIP 12 Watch the game films. Top players in any game, including negotiating, debrief themselves immediately after every major session. They always keep a book on themselves and the other side. TIP 13 No one is going to show you their whole card. You have to figure out what they really want. Clue: Since the given reason is never the real reason, you can eliminate the given reason.
TIP 14 Always let the other side talk first. Their first offer could surprise you and be better than you ever expected.


Negotiating is not trying to overrun and persuade another person. It is not an arena for the realisation of individual achievements. Negotiating is about finding a mutually acceptable compromise that gives you both as much of what you want as possible. To get to this you have to explore your position and the other person’s position. Active listening is key element in this process. The best negotiators almost always turn out to be the best listeners as well!



Question 1. Negotiation is about individual achievement
Answer 1: True
Answer 2: False

Question 2. Preparation and active listening are key elements to a successful negotiation
Answer 1: True
Answer 2: False

This learning activity seeks to practice negotiation skills by carrying out several role plays, where two persons negotiate with each other. This means you will need someone else to do this activity. Make sure both of you get the role description (one of the cards of annex 2). The cards contain details on the deal that the negotiation student will have to try to make. Make sure you don’t discuss your offers on beforehand! You will get 10 minutes to study your role and make notes (in silence). Set up a table and negotiate for 5 minutes.


<< Back