Negotiating Skills: You Can’t Always Get What You Want. Or Can You?

You negotiate your salary.
You haggle over the price of a new car.

If you’re reading this, you’re probably aware that negotiation skills are certainly important interpersonal skills. What you might not realize is that you use negotiation every day of your life.

According to, Gregorio Billikopf’s article for the University of California, “Any time we come to an agreement on anything, we are negotiating.


Think about it: you and your spouse pull into your driveway after a long day of shopping. Your vehicle is full of shopping bags and two sleeping kids. You say, “I’ll get the bags; you get the kids.” What just happened was a negotiation. Negotiating Skills

Some people might be hesitant to try to develop their negotiating skills because they don’t want to appear selfish, always trying to get what they want. However, in all relationships, a healthy amount of give and take is necessary. Good negotiating skills help to keep relationships healthy.

What are Negotiation Skills?

In his article for the University of California website, Gregorio Billikopf gives an excellent summary of what all is entailed in negotiation skills:

Negotiation skills include being well prepared, showing patience, maintaining integrity, avoiding the presumption of evil, controlling our emotions, understanding the role of time pressures, breaking down bigger issues into smaller ones, avoiding threats and manipulative tactics, focusing first on the problem rather than on the solution, seeking for interest-based decisions, and rejecting weak solutions.


A person with good negotiation skills is certainly not a person who simply has the ability to put his or her position in a good light. A person with good negotiation skills:

  • Understands the conflict or issue at hand or is willing to do the work required to get the background information necessary to come to a good decision
  • Listens to the other parties involved in the decision
  • Identifies the other parties’ solutions as strong or weak and can explain why
  • Presents unique solutions that require all parties to “give some and get some”
  • Is willing to compromise on smaller issues and can identify which issues are the most important



What are Examples of Negotiation Skills?

Some of the most popular examples of negotiation skills include negotiating prices at the flea market or putting an offer in on a house, but there are many real life negotiation skills that have nothing to do with money. The following are just a few examples:

– You and your co-workers must present a plan of action to your boss. You each have different ideas about what should go into the plan. You’ll need to negotiate to determine what elements stay in and what go out.

– You and your spouse have to prepare the house for a dinner party. You must negotiate to determine what tasks each of you will complete.

– Your firm and a partner firm enter negotiations to determine what percentage of each sale on a joint venture will be allocated to you and what percentage will be allocated to your partner firm.


How Can I Develop My Negotiation Skills?

Like most interpersonal skills, good negotiation skills require an excellent understanding of the parties involved.

For this reason, you can start developing your negotiation skills by practicing listening to the other person’s solution to the problem first and analyzing that solution.

This requires practicing careful listening. Don’t just think about your solution the entire time the other person is speaking, but carefully listen to their solution and perhaps even take notes, depending on the complexity of the situation.

Next, practice identifying what you consider to be weak and strong elements of the other person’s solution and coming up with your own solution.

It may be helpful to practice by watching negotiations on movies or in your office and trying to imagine you are in the situation — what would you do? What would you say? What solutions would you come up with?

Like most interpersonal skills, negotiation skills come with practice, but the more focus you put into practicing, the negotiating skills — in real of hypothetical situations — the more successful you will be.

Useful resources:

Harvard Law School- Program on Negotiation – Daily Blog

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One Response to “Negotiating Skills: You Can’t Always Get What You Want. Or Can You?”

  1. Georgia P says:

    I’m an awful negotiator. I’ve never negotiated a salary package – I just take what’s offered. I think they’ve all been pretty fair so I’ve never had to worry about it but I would leave a job before I would ask for a raise! What a coward huh? Actually, I can’t even haggle with those market sellers you see in places like Bali and Malaysia! I’m doomed to pay full price for ever unless I learn some of the skills you’ve mentioned! Goals for 2013 maybe!

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