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Enhance Your Everyday Negotiating Techniques

When we hear the word “negotiating,” we often think of closing a big sale or making a big purchase, but negotiating is something that can happen every day with family, co-workers and clients. You are negotiating any time you tell someone that what you want is different from what they are trying to give you. The common goal of negotiation is to aim for a win-win situation where both parties come away feeling satisfied.

The hard and fast rule of negotiation is to understand what the other person wants before you try to persuade them to accept what you want. Start off by listening to the other person, and let them tell you what they want. It’s important to focus on the problem instead of the person, and remember that when you are calm, negotiations are more likely to be successful.

Below are three simple ways to fine-tune your negotiating techniques.

Watch and listen

Being successful at negotiation requires effective verbal and non-verbal communication. Actively listening to the other person and paying attention to their body language takes practice. Voice pitch, intonation, gestures, eye contact, and facial expressions are all messages that imply how we’re feeling and what we’re thinking.  Spend as much time as possible listening rather than explaining your position. Paraphrase what you have heard to confirm accuracy and show that you’re listening attentively. Once you restate what they’ve said, let them confirm, modify or reject your interpretations.

Have go-to phrases 

Try to have a few go-to phrases even when your emotions are high. “I would prefer that” or “I would like to” are common ones that state your preference and don’t attack the other person. Since the goal of negotiating is to come to an agreement and resolution, avoid using words that upset people quickly. Examples of escalating words that you want to avoid using are “you”, “can’t”, “always”, “never” and “should have.” Pay attention to phrases such as “I must have,” “I really want” and “I would like to have,” which reflect the ranking of priorities for the other person. If your negotiations go off track, use phrases like, “I appreciate” or “I respect,” to thank the other person for their effort and show that you value their participation.

Ask open-ended questions

Anticipating the other person’s interests and how they will be approaching the negotiation starts by asking open-ended questions. You need to remember that you are focusing on the other person’s interests and not their position. This will mean delving into what motivates them to ask for what they want. Use a statement like, “Tell me more about”, or a question like, “What are you most concerned about?” to give the other person a chance to share their thoughts. By asking broad, open-ended information-seeking questions that can’t be answered with a brief response, you are able to expand the conversation.

Gathering accurate info about what the other person wants will increase the chance that you will make correct assumptions. I tend to use the question, “What is going on?” The reasons why I like it are that it helps to establish a relationship with someone as it comes across as informal, is open-ended, can collect a lot of information and it focuses on the other person and their feelings and perceptions. There is no limit to questions, so if you don’t think you have all the information you need, keep asking.

For conversations with clients or co-workers that are hard bargainers, you can ask, “Would making an agreement that is reasonable for both of us work for you?” If they respond with a yes, you can then define how the two of you can go about reaching the goal of a mutually satisfactory agreement.

Negotiation, like communication, takes practice. Next time you are negotiating for something, use your go-to phrases and open-ended questions, and start building an inventory of which ones work for you to help you reach your goal.

About Rosemary Smyth and Aaron Hoos

Rosemary Smyth and Aaron Hoos

Rosemary Smyth, MBA, CIM, FCSI, ACC, is an author, columnist and an international business coach for financial advisors. She spent her career working at leading investment firms before pursuing her passion for coaching. She lives in Victoria, BC. Visit her website at You can email Rosemary at:

Aaron Hoos, MBA, has worked in the financial industry since 1997. Formerly a stockbroker, insurance broker, and award-winning sales manager, today he writes for the financial and real estate industry as an educator and marketer. He is working on his second book. Visit his website at and follow him on Twitter @AaronHoos.

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