Negotiation: Skills and Common Mistakes

Negotiation is an important skill for any manager. You may be agreeing to your team members’ deadlines, negotiating a deal with a client or trying to convince a colleague in a meeting. In any of these situations there are a number of negotiation skills you can use to enhance your chance of success, as well as some common mistakes you should avoid. 


One common strategy when entering a negotiation is to outline three positions in advance; Ideal, Realistic and Fallback. This is a good way to make it clear to your team how ambitious you are being, but also accepting reality. This strategy, also known as BATNA (Best Alternative to Negotiated Agreement), was developed by Fisher and Ury as part of the Harvard Negotiation Project at Harvard Law School. You can then attempt to predict the equivalent positions for the other party, and hence find a potential overlap for negotiation.

Each individual will have their own negotiation tactics, usually specific to their personal characteristics, but there are still some qualities that are relevant to everyone. One of these is to remain calm at all times and avoid letting your emotions take over. The more your emotions affect your decisions the less rational they are likely to be. Being co-operative is also important, as simply outlining your position and refusing to consider the other party’s argument is unlikely to secure a deal. 

In recent years, game theory has become a common tool in negotiation. 2 or more parties anticipate the other parties’ decisions and reactions to work out how the negotiation will go. These predictions give a final outcome to different tactics and this can be used to work out what actions you should take to get there. 


Below we have outlined what we believe to be the three most common mistakes made when negotiating:

1. Trying to ‘win’ – Negotiation is not about winning or losing, but about coming out of the discussion with the best possible scenario for your business. Often, individuals can get caught up in trying to deliver the best possible scenario and can end up with nothing. The important skill is to know when to stop negotiating and walk away.

2. Not listening – Often the biggest mistake made in negotiations is one party not listening to the other. Despite it being important to stress your own arguments, it is important to also listen to the other party’s needs. This can reveal a shared interest that you can both agree on as well as coming across as empathetic and enhance your relationship with the other party.

3. Failure to prepare – As always, preparation is key. Having full understanding of the topic being negotiated and knowing exactly what you are going to say can strongly enhance your argument.If you are unprepared you can miss out important details, come across as if you are unsure yourself and ultimately be taken less seriously.


Fisher, Roger, William Ury, and Bruce Patton. (1991). Getting to Yes. New York, N.Y.: Penguin Books, 1991. Print.