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Twelve rules for win-win negotiating


Twelve rules for win-win negotiating

  1. Listen carefully to the other party. Don't interrupt the other party, don't spend your listening time figuring out how you're going to shock the other party when he or she finally stops talking. Most people carry on an inner dialogue with themselves while listening to others. When you negotiate, turn off your inner voice. Then you won’t miss important nonverbal messages, and crucial facial expressions that tell you more than the actual words being used. The better you listen, the better you can learn, and the more likely you will be able to respond in a way that improves the negotiation's result. If you listen carefully, you will be able to understand the other party’s interests and weigh them against your own interests.
  2. Be open and flexible. This will also allow the person you are negotiating with to be open and flexible. Negotiation is a form of communication. Without trust, communication is not successful.
  3. Ask questions that will uncover the needs or interests of the other party.
  4. Try to offer more than one solution to the problem. There could be more than one solution to the problem at hand. Moreover, if the person you are negotiating with knows that she has more than one option, she will not feel as if she is being forced into an agreement. Then she will be willing to listen to you and compromise.
  5. Separate people from the problem. You may not like the person you are negotiating with. But that person is not the reason you are negotiating. You are negotiating in order to solve a problem (which is usually of great importance to you). So concentrate on the problem.
  6. It’s not enough to know what you want out of negotiation. You also need to anticipate what the other party wants. The smart negotiator also tries to anticipate what the other party thinks he or she wants.
  7. If you have created the grounds well, be willing to say "no" to the person you are negotiating with if his demands are unacceptable. A bad agreement is much worse than no agreement.
  8. See to it that the other party wins, especially if it does not compromise your position. A happy opponent will not mind making you happy in return! Instead of "If you will do this, then I will do that" we should ensure that what each party has to bring to the negotiated deal creates more value than the sum of the parts that each contributes. Negotiation should bring about added value.
  9. Be patient. Negotiating what you want may take more time than you think. 


  1. Know what a win is. What is your best-case scenario? What is your worst-case scenario? The area in between is called settlement range. If you can reach an agreement within your settlement range, that’s a win! Stop when you will, not when you ‘defeat’ the other party.
  2. Know your best alternative to a negotiated alternative (BATNA).
  3. Know the other party’s BATNA.

BATNA stands for Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement. The acronym was derived after research on negotiation conducted by the Harvard Negotiation Project. 

Before you begin a negotiation, know what your options are. Can you walk away from the deal? What other choices do you have? What are the pros and cons of each choice? However, you should consider the other party’s interests too. Consider the BATNA of the other party. That may allow you — and the other party — to climb down from a rigid position. 

Work at your negotiation skills

You may not be aware of it, but you probably negotiate daily. Yet you may not think of yourself as a negotiator. That is because you may not be aware that, like everything else, a lot of work goes into negotiating and that you have been working. 

It is time, however, that you made this work methodical. Successful negotiators do their homework — even for ‘short negotiations’. They always have clearly defined goals. 

Know whom you are going to negotiate with before you begin. Does that person want a Win-Win solution or is he heading for a Win-Lose scenario? Does the person want to negotiate with you, does he dread the negotiation, or is this a neutral situation? 

If your boss (who could be your employer, a professor at college or even your mother ordering you to clean your room!) wants to increase your workload you have a conflict on your hands! Obviously you do not want your workload to increase. Therefore, before meeting the boss, write down your current workload and know exactly how much more you can take on. That is, do your homework, so that you can negotiate successfully.


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