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Improving Your Negotiation Skills


We are constantly using our negotiating skills whether it is bargaining for antiques in a flea market or reaching an agreement in business. Life is all about negotiating situations and we even do it subconsciously sometimes. It is a skill that still requires practice, patience and preparation. A talented negotiator plans to react to every type of response. We’ve had the opportunity to work with some great clients and co-workers. Here are some tips we’ve learned along the way for resolving issues.

  • Meeting in person is ideal. If it’s not physically possible settle on a video chat.
  • Meeting space set up. Sit on the same side of the table rather then the opposite. Unless you plan on arm wrestling this is a less confrontational approach.
  • We are on the same team. We are allied towards the same goal during the entire working process and that includes issue resolution.
  • Ownership. In moments of conflict it’s important to emphasize that you own the decision instead of conveying someone else is the decision maker and you are merely the messenger.
  • Be prepared. We are at a disadvantage if the other side is more informed.  Focus on what the other side wants to get out of the negotiation. Think about all possible scenarios that could be presented.
  • Display courage and authenticity. Instill a feeling of trust. Present confident body language.
  • Be an active listener. Put aside assumptions. Listen before you speak and ask good questions based on what you heard. People talk when they get nervous and they tend to reveal important information.
  • Compromise requires adaptability. It’s okay to change your mind during the negotiation process. The solution we are providing is going to be tailored specifically to the response we get.
  • Take time to consider the offer. Don’t make quick decisions without processing information carefully.
  • Don’t get flustered or emotional. Remove your personal feelings out of the equation. Be objective and look at the facts. Try to think clearly under stress.


Personal presentation is a key factor in negotiating. There is actual scientific evidence that body language has an effect on outcomes. It influences how others perceive us and how we think about ourselves. Amy Cuddy’s research on this topic is fascinating. Her Ted talk is a must see. She emphasizes “Faking it until you become it”. Her approach recommends presenting with a confident “power pose” until it becomes a natural behavior. While you are faking it you actually trick your body into being less stressed and more confident.

Here are a few more points to keep in mind for personal presentation and when examining the body language of others.

Tips for positive interactions

  • Good posture goes a long way.
  • Smile and have a positive expression.
  • Nod in agreement during a conversation.
  • The tone of voice is moderate to low.
  • Speech is slow and clear.
  • Maintain eye contact.
  • Hand gestures are deliberate and with purpose.
  • Mirror the body language of the other person.

Signs your audience is feeling defensive and not listening

  • Hand/arm gestures are small and close to the body.
  • Facial expressions are minimal.
  • Body is physically turned away from you.
  • Arms are crossed in front of body.
  • Eyes are downcast or maintain little contact.

Put the person at ease by being more receptive. Evaluate your own body language to make sure you are communicating in an open and approachable way.

Signs the audience is not engaged

  • Heads are down.
  • Eyes are glazed, or gazing at something else.
  • Hands may be picking at cloths, or fiddling with pens.
  • They may be sitting slumped in their chairs.
  • People may be writing or doodling.

(Note: Doodling can actually help people concentrate.)

Get the audience involved. Bring the focus back by asking a direct question.

Signs the audience may not be telling the truth

  • Eyes maintain little or no eye contact. There may be rapid eye movement with constricted pupils.
  • Hand or fingers are in front the mouth when speaking.
  • Unusual/unnatural body gestures.
  • Breathing rate increases.
  • Color of complexion changes. The face or neck area is red.
  • Perspiration increases.
  • Voice changes; pitch, stammering, throat clearing.

Not everyone’s body language is the same. Some people may overemphasize certain body language when they’re not being honest. For example, their eye contact may increase. The signals of nervousness and dishonesty look very similar. Ask more questions to understand if the person is telling the truth.

Signs the audience is listening and processing what you are saying

  • Eyes look away and return to engage contact only when answering.
  • Finger stroking on chin.
  • Hand to cheek.
  • Head tilted with eyes looking up.

Your words are actually sinking in. Progress is being made!

It’s important to evaluate past deals that didn’t go well and figure out why. Understand what could’ve been done differently in terms of your approach towards resolution. Process can always be improved and refined.

Positive negotiations result from being prepared, confident and observant. Even in the best circumstances two parties don’t always reach an agreement. There needs to be a little give and take happening on both sides.



Author Michelle Hartog

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