negotiationNegotiation Skills

Traits of Good Negotiators (part 3)

Good Negotiators Understand Concessions

A concession is an item that you give up in order to move a negotiation forward.  Good negotiators understand that when you concede something, the other side should also concede something.  This allows the negotiation to progress towards a full agreement.  When one side concedes, but receives nothing in return, that side is considered the weaker one because he is beginning to show a habit of giving but not receiving.  The weaker side will again be asked for more, and at some point must stand ground or will end up conceding all of the important points.  This is one situation where it is not always better to give than to receive.  Ask for concessions, but don’t give up your most important ones.  Meantime, give concessions so long as your adversary gives you one as well, and hopefully one that you feel is more important than the concession that you gave.

Don’t give up a concession unless you receive one

Good Negotiators Utilize Limited Authority

The best negotiators know that true power is to act as if they have no power.  The do their best to negotiate agreement, yet will indicate to their opponent that they cannot make a final decision without the approval of a higher power.  Having a wife, a boss, or board of directors between you and the decision, makes it tedious for your adversary.

Good Negotiators Get Passionate

Excellent negotiators know that showing their human side can endear them to the negotiation process.  Gaining rapport by showing that you care about the outcome of the negotiation as well as its progression will move the negotiation along.  When we discuss negotiation power later in this book, you will see how passion can play a role in gaining rapport and getting to a negotiated agreement.  Since a negotiation is reality wrapped in a cloak of acting, being able to play the various roles without being disingenuous, is an excellent skill to possess.  Showing “smart” emotion gives your adversary empathy either negatively (yelling) or positively (feeling for you). 

Good Negotiators are Askers

Tremendous negotiators are so because they do one thing that many find difficult: they ask for what they want, and often more than what they want.  They ask in specific terms, but hold back on many details including telling why they want it or how badly they need it.  They know that often the simple act of asking is the most direct way to cutting through ceremony and achieving an agreement sooner, especially if they have established a good rapport with their counter-party.  The bible says: “ask and you shall receive” and this is often the best advice during a negotiation if for no other reason than it allows your opponent to tell you where you stand.  If you ask and she tells you “no” then you know on what area to concentrate.

I was recently upgraded to the honeymoon suite, for no additional charge, at a hotel in Las Vegas simply because I knew that it was a slow time of the year, the hotel had plenty of rooms, AND I ASKED.

Good Negotiators are Risk Takers

Most good negotiators are risk takers and have good business judgment.  They are willing to bluff and call a bluff.  They understand that if the parties are not too far apart, that a walk-away is doubtful – and even if it happens, a deal is probably possible in the future. 

Good Negotiators are Confident

Quality negotiators know what they are after. They understand their position and have prepared diligently for the negotiation.  Mostly they are comfortable with who they are.  They don’t have a need to be liked by the other side.  In fact, they would rather be respected than liked.  Weak negotiators are those who are looking for validation from the other side. Once weakness is perceived by a strong opponent, it is like the weakest animal being discovered by the lion in the herd – and we all know how that story ends.  Strong negotiators seek validation by getting the best possible result.  Their confidence emanates from the congruity in other parts of their lives. 

They have excellent integrity, and are considered fair and flexible.  Even though they have a preconceived outcome planned before they embark on a negotiation, they will be fair to the other party when new information is gathered and will be flexible with their own position such that they are working towards a win-win agreement.

Good Negotiators Have Stamina

Finally, going hand in hand with being patient, they have the stamina to remain present while in the negotiation.  They understand that by doing so, they will outlast their competition and obtain a better result.  I believe that 80% of the results of the negotiation come from the last 20% of the time invested.  Good negotiators pace themselves knowing that many negotiations can go much longer than planned.  They don’t schedule anything after a negotiation that cannot be easily rescheduled, because they understand that negotiations that are planned to conclude at a certain time rarely do so, and it is near that planned conclusion time that most of the results are gleaned.

80% of the results of a negotiation come from the last 20% of the time invested

Good Negotiators Are Willing To Learn And Practice

Negotiating is an art that takes practice.  A professional golfer wouldn’t just show up to the tournament without some preparation and practice.  He would take the time to hone his skills, understand the golf course, and understand the competition.  Tiger Woods spends hours each day on the practice range hitting the same 158-yard 9-iron shot, hundreds of times.  He upgrades his equipment to the latest technology.  In negotiation, you become more skillful by practicing the information that you have learned.  That way, in a real life negotiation, your answers come instinctively and you can spend your time concentrating on new information, not just on how to negotiate.


There are many traits of successful negotiators and these traits can all be learned.  No great negotiators were born with all of these traits.  They had to be acquired and honed with practice.  The more you learn and practice the skills discussed in this book, the more confident that you will become. 

Confidence, in turn, will help you drive success in every negotiation that you undertake for the rest of your life.