Rebuilding Bridges: How to Salvage a Broken Business Relationship

Jeff Cochran


Business relationships are just as focused and dependent upon trust as any other relationship. Sometimes, deals fall through, deadlines aren’t met, or the result doesn’t meet expectations. Failings such as these can lead to resentment, but that doesn’t have to be the end of a business relationship. When you’re thinking about whether you should try to fix a damaged business relationship, keep this framework in mind.

Assess the Relationship’s Value 

It may sound harsh, but sometimes it’s better to let a relationship go rather than labor to salvage it. You need to make sure your effort is going to pay off. While this may sound like a cold calculation, rebuilding a business relationship is different from regaining trust from a friend. Emotional attachment may be important to personal relationships, but in the business world, both parties need to bring something to the table.

Know When You’re Wrong

We build relationships on trust, and if that trust is broken, it can be very difficult to repair. Rebuilding trust is possible, but it takes a great deal of effort and sometimes takes quite a long time. First, you need to take accountability for anything you may have done to contribute to the failed relationship. It can be difficult to recognize our own faults, but in the business world, it’s crucial that you’re able to own your mistakes so you don’t repeat them. Remember, you’re not just representing yourself – you represent your organization. Personal pride shouldn’t impact those types of decisions.

Open the Communication Channels

Once you have accounted for where you may have gone wrong, it’s time to open a dialog. This can be most difficult when trying to regain a frustrated client or customer, but it’s not impossible. Ask the other party what could have been done differently and if there’s anything you can do to resolve the issue now. Sometimes a singular issue can uncover a larger problem within your organization, so take the time to hear the other party, and then ask if you can do anything to improve your organization as a whole.

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

This adage rings true in the business world. If you’ve determined where a business relationship has gone wrong, believe that it’s worth salvaging, and have reopened communications with the other party, it’s time to start making moves. If both parties have something to gain from continuing to do business with each other, it makes the process much easier. While emotions don’t play as much of a role in the business world as they do with personal relationships, the wronged party needs to see that you’re willing to accept failings on your part and are taking measurable steps to correct them.

Any business relationship has potential, so they’re almost always worth salvaging. Take the time to extend an olive branch and try to rectify your past mistakes. You don’t want to be known as an organization that doesn’t play well with others.

How to Negotiate an Extra Day Off from Work

Jeff Cochran


The workforce is more competitive than ever these days. With the economy on the upswing, more businesses are trying to find employees and entice those who may have given up on finding steady work. This being said, we all need a day off from work occasionally. Whether you’re sick, dealing with a family emergency, or just need a “mental health day,” a day off gives you the chance to rest, recharge, and breathe. You can negotiate for extra time successfully if you follow the right tips.

Know Your Workplace’s Policies

Every workplace, and often every department supervisor, has a different policy when it comes to time off. Some companies, such as Xerox, allow employees to buy extra vacation time, deducting from your pay using pre-tax dollars. Others have similar leave without pay (LWOP) policies, and some will allow leave with pay depending on the circumstances.

For example, you are more likely to get leave with pay to take care of a chronically ill child or other family member. However, never take any policy for granted. Do your homework, especially in regard to your department or supervisor. How often does this department or person grant extra time off? Under what circumstances? How many vacation or sick days are negotiable? Answer these questions before ever bringing up extra time off.

Be Calm

Negotiating extra time off can sometimes be emotional. You may want the extra time because you’ve been given a heavier workload than usual, or perhaps you are expected to do others’ work without overtime or credit. You may need the extra time because you’re unexpectedly ill or because a family member has a serious need.

These situations can tempt you to get angry or even cry during negotiations. Try to avoid this. Although most employers are understanding, too much emotion is off-putting. Anger especially can make you look disrespectful or ungrateful. If you have a pressing need or a grievance related to extra time off, take a deep breath and prepare yourself. You could even practice the request with a trusted colleague.

Respond to Needs

Ideally, you’ll ask for extra time off when it’s convenient for both you and your boss. Sometimes though, this isn’t possible. If you must ask for extra time off during a busy season, be prepared to compromise. If you really want a week, perhaps you could compromise and take three days. If you need four days, maybe you can take two.

Empathize with your supervisor. Say something like, “I know we’re in a busy time. What can I do to help?” Offer to check in during your time off, or come in on a day you’d normally be absent to make up for the extra time. Additionally, offer to work with the people who’ll cover for you so they know exactly what your duties entail.

Be Confident and Warm

When negotiating for time off, be confident, but be friendly. Avoid “closed” body language like crossed arms; this can make you look demanding. Emphasize your hard work or remind your boss of something you’ve done well, but don’t say things like, “I deserve this.” If you’d like extra help, check out our negotiation training for assistance.

The Impact of Body Language in Negotiations

Whether you are negotiating for a raise, time off, or the sale of a new product, every word and movement in a negotiation is crucial. Most people know to choose their words carefully while negotiating, but body language is often forgotten. The way we toss our head, flail our hands and crisscross our legs all influence negotiations in distinctive ways, so using the right body language is vital to success.


Copycat for Success

Researchers often find that the longer two people are in the same room, the more they mimic each other’s body language and gestures. For example, you might come into your supervisor’s office to negotiate a raise and find that after twenty minutes, you’re both leaning back with your legs crossed. Most people feel silly when they realize this is happening or worry that mimicry will make them look like they are brownnosing, so they stop doing it.

Researchers, however, tend to agree that mimicry or mirroring is positive. Mimicking someone else’s body language or gestures, even unconsciously, shows a desire to build rapport. Additionally, most people find that clients who mimic them are more persuasive and honest than those who do not.


Stay Constructive

If you negotiate frequently, chances are you will eventually come across someone who you find challenging to converse with. This person may ask you the same type of questions over and over. He or she may pronounce a common word in a way that annoys you or unconsciously drum his or her fingers on the table. No matter the behavior, it can be difficult to hide your irritation.

Researchers have performed studies to determine whether people can hide their reactions to emotionally charged images. The studies found that although discomfort is difficult to hide, untrained observers do not often detect it. In other words, your client may not realize his finger-drumming distracts you, or your boss may not realize you’re nervous during a meeting. That being said, experts recommend that you stay as constructive as possible. Use neutral body language, and phrase criticisms constructively.


Have a Handshake

For decades, experts have advised employees to maintain a firm, warm handshake. While firm handshakes are still preferable, handshakes of any kind make people feel comfortable and respected. If you can’t grip someone’s hand as firmly as a colleague, or if your hands are naturally cold, don’t despair. The fact that you made the gesture will show the other person you are serious about negotiations and care what they have to say.


Keep Eye Contact

Eye contact is difficult for many people. In fact, some people from countries outside the US may find it offensive. However, good eye contact is key for US and Canadian negotiations. Maintain it to show your honesty and interest in the other person. Try not stare or focus too long on one point. This can be interpreted as aggression. Feel free to look away while thinking or deciding how to word something. If you naturally have trouble with eye contact – for example, you are from a culture that frowns on it – let the other person know. That way, he or she won’t assume you’re being evasive.


If you would like more tips, you can visit us online to find out about negotiation training.

Staying Motivated Before Weekends and Holidays

Jeff Cochran


Most employees know about the midweek slump. After all, there’s a reason Wednesday is called “hump day” – it often feels like jumping over a big hump. Yet motivation doesn’t automatically pick up on Thursday or Friday. If anything, workers often feel less motivated than ever on Fridays or the days before long holiday breaks. If this describes you, there are ways to stay motivated and turn in quality work during this time.

Keep Yourself Interested 

If you feel bogged down with difficult or boring assignments, your energy and enthusiasm will flag. When possible, do difficult Friday or pre-holiday assignments as soon as you arrive. Many people feel more enthusiastic in the morning, and with the whole day ahead of you, you won’t feel like you’re racing to meet deadlines. In the afternoon, do the assignments that will be finished quickly or are the most fun. For instance, if you’re an elementary teacher who loves science, save a fun experiment until after lunch.

Chill Out 

The end of the week is stressful because people want to get out as early as possible, but deadlines and unfinished tasks still loom. This can overwhelm the most dedicated employee. If your brain feels cluttered, take a few minutes to meditate or do some deep breathing. Take a brisk walk at lunch to replenish energy. If you can, try to sneak in a 10-15 minute power nap, or simply close your eyes for short rest periods throughout the afternoon.

Bring Your Kids or a Pet

If the office allows it and if school schedules permit, Friday afternoon is a good time to bring your kids to work. You can look forward to doing something special with the kids when work is over, such as going to the park, out for ice cream, or to a favorite store. This can become a reward for everyone. Additionally, many offices are now allowing pets, everything from dogs and cats to fish and iguanas. Having something dynamic to watch or interact with can increase motivation.

Laugh More

Laughter increases morale, burns calories, and replenishes energy. People who laugh are also less likely to complain at work and more likely to thank coworkers for a job well-done. Some offices host “month-end laugh-a-thons” to facilitate more laughter. These can be as simple as watching funny (appropriate) YouTube videos, or as complex as inviting a local comedian to come in on Friday afternoon. If you’re an employee, bring your favorite jokes and funny stories to work and share them.


Jeff Cochran


Some people believe negotiation skills are taught, not inborn. While this is true in some cases, your birth order does give you innate strengths and weaknesses that can serve or hinder you in the business world. Once you know the innate traits of your birth order, you can capitalize on those strengths and work to improve the weaknesses. Eventually, you will become an excellent employee and negotiator.

Oldest Children
Oldest children are the people we usually think of as neat, organized, natural leaders, and often more than a bit bossy. According to experts like psychologist Dr. Kevin Leman, this is often because they had Mom and Dad to themselves for months or even years before the birth of siblings. They’re more likely to grow up acting like little adults and succeed as leaders like CEOs, head teachers or principals, or the top artist, novelist, or musician in their field. Firstborns will negotiate with confidence and can easily enumerate reasons why their way is the best way to do something. They should watch out for perfectionist tendencies, as well as the tendency to demand their own way or to rebel if they don’t like someone else’s decisions.

Middle Children
Middle children are in a unique position because they grew up with older and younger siblings, so they learned to negotiate from an early age. They were neither babied nor given the oldest child’s responsibilities, so they may have socialized more outside the family to fit in. Middle children often thrive socially. They’re good negotiators because ultimately they want everyone to win, so they’ll find ways to make that happen. Middle children should be careful of being walked on; for instance, they traditionally report making less at work than oldest or youngest children. They should also avoid getting in a rut and should push themselves to take advancement opportunities.

Youngest Children
Youngest children love people, attention, and approval. If the needs for attention and approval aren’t met, they can experience burnout or rebel against authority. Youngest children are creative and persistent. A youngest-born child generally has no trouble asserting him or herself, especially when feeling railroaded. Youngest children should avoid the tendency to manipulate in negotiations. They should also be willing to let others share the spotlight.

Only Children
Only children are sometimes called super-firstborns. They are more organized and articulate than most firstborns, even if the firstborn has several siblings. These are the hard-driving negotiators who can and will negotiate all day if they need to. Like youngest children, they are innovative and love it when their ideas are adopted. Only children should stay open to constructive criticism and avoid becoming workaholics.

4 Tips for Negotiating a Raise

Jeff Cochran


Many business employees are great negotiators. However, even the best negotiators often hesitate to use their skills to get a raise. They fear asking for a raise will make them look like money-grubbers. If you fit into this category, your feelings are natural but you needn’t let fear cheat you out of an opportunity. If you have done your job well and haven’t had a salary increase in awhile, you are within your rights to ask for one and there are good ways to do so.

Research First:

Business experts recommend you understand benchmarking before negotiating a salary increase. In other words, you need to know if a company is willing to pay what you are worth. Research starting salaries at competing companies, as well as how long it usually takes for their employees to get raises. Compare and contrast this with average pay for people in your field with your experience or particular skill set. Additionally, compare and contrast local companies’ salaries with those of other companies in your area. If you can show that wages and increases are similar across the board, you’re more likely to get the raise.

Don’t Bring Up Money First Thing:

An old adage says the first person to bring up money loses, and that’s especially true in the business world. If you walk into a supervisor’s office and immediately ask to talk about money, he or she will be surprised, shocked, and worst-case scenario, irritated. Instead, make an appointment first. Begin with appropriate small talk, or mention something you’ve enjoyed doing this week. Then casually bring up your research or ask if your supervisor has time to negotiate now.

Remember the Entire Package:

Salary negotiations are not only about your paycheck. They may involve negotiations for sick leave, maternity leave, vacation time, or other compensations. Again, if comparable compensation does not match what you get at your workplace, bring it up as cordially as possible. If there is a particular perk or type of compensation you want, such as vacation time, ask about that first. Finally, if there is a pressing reason to ask about non-cash perks – for instance, you just found out you’re pregnant – don’t wait too long to mention it. Otherwise, negotiations might be harder to complete.

Discuss, Don’t Demand:

Since the economy is still sluggish, many people feel strongly about raises and paychecks. This is understandable, but don’t let your concerns or emotions turn negotiation into confrontation. Remember that most employers want their workers to succeed. Go in with a positive attitude – it will make a better impression.

How to Be Nice & Negotiate With Confidence

Jeff Cochran


Many people think the negotiation process involves a heated debate and sly tactics. While this is the case occasionally, there are plenty of ways to negotiate with respect. Being cordial during a negotiation doesn’t mean being a pushover, either. Negotiation training can show people how to communicate with confidence while still being a nice person. The main goal of “nice” negotiation is to be fair and still get what you want.

Establish a Rapport 

Making small talk before negotiations begin builds a relationship with the person. It also gives you an advantage over the situation. Small talk affords you the opportunity to learn about the other person; what their motives are, how they perceive their surroundings, and how they respond to them. In this way, you can build a relationship while building your tactics.

Small talk doesn’t have to be strictly personal; you can chat about the company or the upcoming negotiation. People who engage in small talk before a negotiation are substantially more successful at reaching an agreement.

Be Firm in Your Argument 

You can be firm when arguing your side without coming across as rude. Demonstrate your knowledge on the subject, and show your opponent that you know what you’re talking about by providing thoughtful information. Back up your argument with factual evidence and logic.

For example, imagine you’re buying a car. When negotiating with the salesman, show them that you researched the car and the value of the particular model. Convey confidence in your negotiating skills with a firm handshake upon introduction and an expertise in your field, and you will come across as knowledgeable, not arrogant.

Show Emotion, But Not Too Much 

We can look to the car dealership example for this concept, as well. Many times, when people shop for a car, they fall in love with a particular model and outwardly express their opinion. Obviously, the salesman uses this to his advantage when trying to get the most money out of the sale.

When they see emotion, they see dollar signs. It’s helpful to show a little emotion, as it shows that you’re human, and it helps the other person open up. Being overly emotional about a subject, however, makes you vulnerable to hardball tactics. Know when to hold back, when to open up, and when to let go.

Negotiation training can teach you how to identify when “nice” negotiating will work best. Of course, this is not the best way to approach the situation, but knowing when to use it can reap some significant rewards.



Negotiation Lifehacks: the three D’s

Jeff Cochran


Some people may feel like negotiation isn’t really a skill-set they need to develop because they don’t work in sales, or law, or sports management or whatever. But the truth is everybody — except maybe for certain categories of criminals and tyrants — negotiates to have their personal needs and interests met.

Negotiation isn’t the same thing as manipulation. The difference between those two things hinges on the difference between good faith and bad faith. Negotiation is a good faith effort to have our personal wants and needs met.

Here are a few examples of everyday situations in which negotiation becomes necessary:

  • Maybe you need to sell something of value and can’t afford to sacrifice on the price, but the value you imagine isn’t imagined the same way by others.
  • Maybe you need to marshal support of peers and colleagues for an idea you feel strongly about.
  • Perhaps you need to settle a debt.

Because situations like these come up all the time, negotiation really is an ordinary, everyday task. It’s just one that requires extraordinary preparation to master.

All of us have conversations everyday. And we’ve all heard conversation referred to as an artform. Well, by extension, negotiation is the art of difficult conversations. And prepared negotiation is the art of succeeding in difficult conversations, while retaining amicable relations. So let’s discuss some negotiation training and preparation techniques called the three D’s to help us work toward mastery.


Most of us understand how we feel on emotional levels, as opposed to intellectual levels, which means articulating our feeling without allowing emotion to dominate their expression in conversation can often feel a little strange and awkward. There’s a school of thought that characterizes honest communication as the simple act of describing how you feel, and then clearly stating what you want. It’s a simple two-step process. While that may seem overly simplistic at a glance, deeper inspection shows it’s not. Sitting down before hand to gather thoughts and sort out how we feel about the details of a situation, and then ruminate on a workable solution takes our personal, emotional experience and transmutes those vague thoughts into focused and defined concepts that can be expressed clearly. In some cases, like a tense situation or a dispute that requires resolution, the drafting stage can provide some catharsis that purges negative emotions from the situation.

Drafting gets to the substance of what you want to say, but it is not the end of the conversation. A couple of other aspects to consider in the drafting stage are:

  • Objectives: What do you hope to accomplish in this negotiation? Can it be broken down into a simple list?
  • Precedents: Can you think of any example where other people faced a similar situation? Where they successful, or did they fail? Is there a lesson for you to draw from in their experience?
  • Anecdotes: You may find that precedents lead to relatable stories. Telling stories is a great method for taking a particular circumstances and making them universally relatable. Consider applying this method without turning into Ben Matlock, if possible.

Devil’s Advocate

The devil’s advocate stage is where we put the draft we’ve compiled to the test. The goal is to verify whether or not the drafting stage sufficiently exorcised the emotions involved, or if our argument is still under the influence of those emotions in ways that are counterproductive to the goals. If the emotions and the logic don’t merge into a persuasive argument, the devil’s advocate will help reveal which of the pertinent thoughts, feelings, hopes, and expectations should remain on the negotiation table, and which ones should go.

Some questions to consider in the devil’s advocate stage are:

  • What happens if things don’t work out?
  • What are some alternate outcomes you’re willing to consider?
  • To what degree do alternative outcomes satisfy your interests?
  • What are the needs and wants of the other party that you may be able to address?
  • What are the other party’s options if they choose not to work it out with you?

Recruit a Trusted friend or colleague to play your devil’s advocate. Practice delivering the argument you develop from the drafting stage and have your devil’s advocate pose counterpoints. This will put you in the shoes of the other party. Devil’s advocacy may be an ongoing process. Perhaps more than one redraft will be necessary, so choose someone who can remain involved for as long as possible.


Remember the concept of honest communication from the beginning of this post? Describe how you feel. Then state what you want.

Remember how we considered whether or not the idea of saying how you feel and then asking for what you want, was overly-simplistic? It’s not. But it is easier said than done. For most people the hardest part about negotiation is the asking stage. Preparing yourself for the awkward request is the real crux of this process.

What makes the hard request easier is smooth and practiced delivery. The final conversation may happen in a different context, like a different time or a different location than expected. There may be unforeseen interruptions, or questions that arise and break up the flow you’ve rehearsed. This possibility also needs to be prepared for.

Here are a few tips for that process.

  • Keep your devil’s advocate on hand to act as your delivery coach.
  • Practice delivering your scripted argument, and have your devil’s advocate interrupt with challenges to your argument.

The need to negotiate does not arise from people harboring wants and needs they’re not entitled to. Negotiation arises when perfectly legitimate wants and needs are found to be at odds with the wants and needs of others, or vice versa. Those instances in which we must engage with others to find solutions for competing needs and interests are types of negotiations. Power disparities, social dynamics, and the nuances of each person’s individual perspective, and circumstances requires that each of us negotiate with others from time to time, or else resort to crime, tyranny, or the other side of that equation, victimhood and/or martyrdom.

Negotiations Training Games and Activities

Jeff Cochran


Employers are always looking for new negotiations training  activities that engage people and produce effective results. Negotiators need to learn communication skills, appropriate aggression and ambition, how to think from a different perspective, how to deal with difficult people, and more. Here are some innovative games and activities worth trying for your negotiations training:


  1. Role-Playing 

Defining a scenario, whether realistic or off-the wall fiction, can boost confidence, develop listening skills, and train creative problem-solving techniques. Role-playing is where one person describes a situation and other people respond to it. Also called cooperative-storytelling, the narrator defines a problem or enacts an imaginary stranger and the role-players then need to work together to handle the situation. This negotiation training provides a controlled environment where people may test and practice their negotiation skills without fear of bad consequences. 

  1. Body Language Activities 

Create a game, like charades, where one “speaker” has to communicate a message without speaking. As others guess the message, the  “speaker” refines body language until the message is communicated. This entertaining exercise helps people test what gesticulations work and which do not. 

More tied to real-life scenarios, watch movie scenes or public debates in which negotiations are taking place. Have your group observe non-verbal cues, including vocal fluctuations. Write these down then have each participant share their observations with the group afterwards. 

A third activity is to play a variation of Simon says or follow the leader. Designate one participant “negotiator” and one “client.” Make up a creative scenario where the negotiator and client represent different companies in a negotiation, each with different goals and assets to draw from. Divide all other participants in the room into two groups with each group mimicking the non-verbal cues of the negotiator or client. As the activity progresses, everyone will become self-conscious about the body language being used. Let each person have a turn in the negotiation. Afterwards, discuss observations on the effectiveness of different types of body language. 

  1. Arm Wrestle 

Set up the following game to help people become aware of their assumptions and disposition when entering a negotiation situation. Participants will become aware of whether they aim for “beating” the other person or try to find a conclusion with mutual benefits.

Direct two participants to a table with hands clasped and elbows in an arm wrestling position. Tell them they have two main rules. First, a participant gains one point if the back of their partner’s hand touches the table. Second, the goal is to get as many points as possible without concern for anyone else. Explain that each point will earn a candy after ten seconds of wrestling. Debrief by asking people why they got their score and how they could approach the “negotiation” differently. Help them become aware of and challenge their initial assumptions.

These are just a few of the creative ways to increase people’s self-awareness of their negotiations assumptions and communication skills. Think outside the box and come up with similar negotiations training exercises.

Stepping out of the Midweek Slump

Jeff Cochran


Even the most enthusiastic employees can hit a slump around Wednesday or Thursday, so it’s crucial to know strategies that will help them overcome it.

Sleep Well & Wake Up Early

Getting enough rest Tuesday night will keep you alert on Wednesday. Sleeping well and maintaining a good diet will go a long way in preventing mid-week slumps. Sleep deprivation causes your body to work less efficiently, using more energy.

While you are sleeping, your mind organizes your thoughts for better memory and processing during the day. Getting enough rest will help your brain function better and will improve your creativity and alertness.

Wake up on Wednesday with enough time to have breakfast and do something active. Going for a short walk or even stretching will ensure that you don’t pull into work half-asleep. Starting off on the right foot sets the mood for the rest of your day.

Take a Break

Take a mid-day break. Round everyone up for a short coffee break to give them an opportunity to return to work with energy. The break will wake people up and keep them alert.

Schedule a mid-week meeting to get some face-to-face time with employees and allow everyone to speak. Empathize and foster team spirit to end on a positive note and send employees out refreshed.

Be Positive When You Don’t Feel Like It 

Attitude is contagious. When you catch yourself being pessimistic, say the opposite. Negativity causes anxiety and stress, which will affect health and productivity, and is twice as contagious as positivity. Watch what you say around others as complaining is a prime motivation killer. Keep your complaints to yourself and encourage others when they start complaining.

Take a moment to practice some deep breathing techniques to release stress and the tension in your muscles. Combine this with a light stretch and you have a recipe for increased alertness.

Write down your thoughts. The Journal of Research in Personality has shown that writing out your thoughts can enhance positive moods and relieve stress. Negative attitudes are vicious cycles that can be helped with a private outlet.

Redefine Wednesday 

Turn your half empty glass into a half full one by reminding yourself and others that you’re on the downhill slope to the weekend. Personally motivate yourself by doing something fun Wednesday night, like going on a date, watching movies, or having family fun night. Start a mid-week tradition worth looking forward to. 

Create an Energy Diet and Exercise 

Create a diet that sustains your energy and grab some healthy snacks. Some foods to include are eggs, Greek yogurt, edamame, whole grain cereal, trail mix, water, guarana, quinoa, pumpkin seeds, goji berries, nuts, fish, beans, dark leafy vegetables, and dark chocolate.

Exercise also helps boost energy levels. Studies have shown that going for a short mid-day walk can boost your energy more than a nap. Get your blood pumping to wake yourself up and increase your alertness for the rest of the day. Exercising regularly provides endorphins to fight stress and naturally increases your overall energy levels.

Challenge Yourself 

Set up a Wednesday productivity challenge and reward yourself if you meet it. Creating a challenge turns a boring day into a game. Set hourly challenges to keep you alert throughout the day. Even if management does not reward you, reward yourself. Challenging yourself can go a long way in creating motivation at any time during the week. 

Challenge others as well. Creating some friendly competition or a collective goal can boost morale in the whole office. Getting everyone on board and providing a larger reward incentive can turn Wednesday into the most exciting day of the week.