Negotiation Tactics: Essential Skills and Knowledge

Different negotiation tactics achieve different results and should be used in different situations and should be responded to accordingly. As a result, your team needs to understand the difference between these negotiation tactics to maximize their negotiation success. Compared to reactive negotiation, based on instinctively responding to others’ behavior, strategic negotiation forms a proactive approach in which the negotiator develops a strategy set in advance. Establishing a strong negotiation skill set is fundamental to strategic negotiations. Essential skills to promote include preparation, communication, and the four key aspects of emotional intelligence, followed by practicing these skills to hone them before meeting with other negotiating parties.

Essential Skills for Strategic Negotiations

Before getting to common tactics, let’s first delve into the essential skills that a strategic
Negotiators should develop before starting to focus on tactics:

1. Effective Preparation

Negotiation begins long before both parties meet. Proper preparation significantly impacts the outcome of any negotiation. The more complex or important a negotiation is, the greater the preparation required to be successful. Developing preparedness as a strategic negotiation skill involves conducting thorough research on the other party and learning everything you can about the deals they have completed, the terms of these deals, and their commitment to following through with these terms. The key is to have a process or system to prepare. This allows you to predict how they will respond to your proposal and in turn how you will respond and where the conversation may go as a result. You should know specifically what you hope to achieve in the negotiation so you can determine your priorities and define your objectives. Gather the appropriate data required to manage the deal and keep everything organized so you can access the information when you need it.

2. Communication

Communication serves as the foundation for any successful strategic negotiation. Proficiency in communication is one of the most crucial components required to become a masterful negotiator. Communication skills include:

  • Clearly, effectively communicating your ideas
  • Fully devoting your attention to the negotiation at hand
  • Keeping your objectives in mind when sharing information
  • Asking relevant open-ended questions to gain further information, verify your awareness of core concepts, or resolve any misunderstandings
  • Requesting elaboration when presented with unclear information
  • Actively listening to the other party to demonstrate you recognize their needs, understand their reasoning, value their point of view, and are willing to address any concerns they may have
  • Restating their ideas in your own words to prove you are actively listening
  • Fostering sincere collaboration throughout the entire process by approaching the situation as a team rather than as competitors
  • Analyzing the details of the situation to determine the best course of action
3. Self-Awareness

Self-awareness consists of recognizing and understanding your emotions, appreciating how they impact others around you, and considering the role they play in your decision-making. Know your value and project confidence in your skills and experience to illustrate the advantages you hold and gain more leverage in strategic negotiation. Consider the scope of your influence and enhance this influence by grounding your negotiations on hard data, sound logic, and convincing arguments.

4. Self-Management

Based on adequate self-awareness, self-management comprises the ability to control your emotions and adjust your behavior to best accommodate dynamic circumstances. The only way to ensure your negotiating partner truly comprehends the information you share is by remaining calm and courteous while expressing yourself. Handling negotiations with diplomacy and tact benefits you in the current deal. It also establishes your reputation as a professional and encourages the growth of the relationship.

5. Social Awareness

Social awareness is the ability to discern, interpret, and appropriately respond to the emotions of others. You must read your negotiating partner by considering not only the words they speak, but also examining other verbal and non-verbal cues, such as tone of voice, eye contact, and body language. With more than 50% of successful communication relying on body language, it is imperative to analyze the other party’s body language and carefully manage your body language to express openness and present yourself as professional, authoritative, and cooperative.

6. Relationship Management

Relationship management utilizes all of the above skills to influence your negotiating partner. Throughout the negotiation, you can learn more about the other party’s personality and find common ground by asking them about their interests, goals, and motivations for agreeing. The more you understand your negotiation partner, the better your position for leading the strategic negotiation to a mutually beneficial outcome. Finally, and most importantly, demonstrate empathy while dealing with the other party. By being empathetic, you cultivate trust, improve your persuasion’s efficacy, and develop a more amicable, sustainable relationship.

7. Practice

Similar to strengthening any other professional skill, the negotiation skills above require regular, comprehensive practice. The more familiar you become with the strategic negotiation process before meeting clients, the more confident and successful you will be when sitting down at the negotiating table. An objective perspective on your negotiation skills allows you to discover your weaknesses and overcome them, making you better prepared for the future.

We’ve established the importance of these core negotiation skills and are now ready to
move on to common negotiation tactics – how to use them and how to respond to them.

Think of negotiation tactics as a collection of tools in your toolbox, each one designed to solve certain challenges and situations that may occur throughout the negotiation process. These tactics are not one-size-fits-all; rather, which you use, when, and how you respond to each depends on the situation. Let’s delve into the most common now.

8. Achoring

Anchoring is a powerful psychological strategy in which you make an initial offer or point of reference that serves as the starting point for the negotiation. It may consist of a certain price, terms, or any other component of the transaction. Negotiators should use anchoring at the beginning of the conversation to establish a favorable starting position for you. It can act as a foundation for the other party's opinion of what is acceptable. When confronted with this strategy, acknowledge its effect but resist embracing it. Instead, respond with a well-thought-out offer that corresponds with your objectives and gives a genuine explanation.

9. Silence

Silence is a powerful and strategic negotiation approach in which one side intentionally refrains from speaking or replying immediately after laying down a proposition, offer, or request. This calculated pause generates a noticeable quiet in the conversation, that is typically used to persuade the other side to react, consider, or make a choice. Negotiators can apply this technique when they’ve made an important offer and want to create pressure for an answer or compromise. It can also be helpful when you believe the other party’s reaction will reveal their true intentions. When dealing with this strategy, as a negotiator, you must resist the impulse to disrupt it and take some time to consider your position and the nature of the discussion. If necessary, politely ask for clarification or further information.

10. Good Cop / Bad Cop

This is a collaborative negotiating method in which two negotiators work together, each playing a different role. The “Good Cop” is kind, understanding, and cooperative, while
the “Bad Cop” is more aggressive and confrontational. In this tactic, the Good Cop seeks to build rapport with the other party, convey empathy, and explore common ground. They often express understanding, offer concessions, and present a more amicable face of the negotiation team. The Bad Cop, on the other hand, is more forceful, even aggressive. They may criticize the other party’s policies, show skepticism, or generate a sense of urgency or discomfort. The goal of the Bad Cop is to get better conditions, compromises, or commitments. This method is successful in a wide range of situations. Especially when working with a group of negotiators since it generates an apparent distinction in negotiating methods, impacting the group’s collective view.

It should also be used when there is a need to unsettle or apply pressure to the other party, providing aspects of surprise, discomfort, or urgency that may cause them to rethink their attitude. Facing this strategy requires skilled negotiating. Begin by identifying the unique tasks of each negotiator. Address each negotiator personally, participating in the Good Cop’s rapport-building efforts while being calm. Recognize and examine the problems presented by the Bad Cop’s more forceful approach at the same time. Maintain your focus on your goals, avoid making rash compromises under pressure, and use empathy carefully.

11. Take It Or Leave It

This is a straightforward negotiation approach where one party offers a final proposal without room for further discussion. This tactic communicates that the presented offer is firm and non-negotiable. The other party must decide whether to accept the offer as is or decline it, which could lead to the end of the negotiation. This tactic is used when the offering party is confident that their proposal is fair and aligned with their negotiation goals.

This method should be used when you feel confident that your offer is reasonable and consistent with your negotiating goals. It works best when you need to make a choice quickly due to time restrictions or external variables. It sends a clear message that the offer is non-negotiable and should be used when no further negotiation is possible. It is a confident position, indicating that you are willing to stand firm on your terms. Confronting the “Take It or Leave It” strategy requires a delicate balance.

Begin by thoroughly analyzing the provided offer to ensure that it is aligned with your negotiation goals. Understand that this strategy implies finality and inhibits future dialogue.
Respectfully and professionally express your viewpoint, highlighting any problems or
areas that may require modifications. Consider negotiating within limitations, considering tiny changes while remaining committed to your values. Keep your cool throughout the process, seek clarification when needed, and be ready to make a final decision based on your evaluation and options. Maintain polite communication regardless of the outcome to preserve the possibility of future conversations.

12. Foot In The Door

“Foot in the Door” is a compelling negotiating tactic that involves starting with a small and easily agreeable request or proposition before offering a larger, more substantial one. The goal is to gain initial agreement on a smaller request, in order to build a psychological commitment to consistency. This increases the possibility of the opposing party agreeing to the second, more important request, which aligns with the negotiator’s ultimate goals. Use this method strategically if you anticipate the other party’s opposition or hesitation over a significant request. It is especially helpful when you want to gradually develop trust, rapport, and a sense of teamwork. This strategy is useful when you have a series of requests, each of which moves you closer to your final goal. “Foot in the Door” is particularly helpful when dealing with difficult or prolonged negotiations in which establishing a pattern of agreement might help you achieve your final goals.

When facing the “Foot in the Door” tactic, it’s vital to recognize what’s happening. Take
each request one at a time and decide if it aligns with your goals. Politely decline requests that don’t serve your interests and explain why. Keep in mind that accepting the first request may make the other party more willing to cooperate. But always prioritize your objectives, adapt as needed, and consider the big picture. Effective responses balance cooperation and protecting your interests throughout the negotiation.

13. Wince

“Wince” is a negotiating method in which one side makes their proposition or request appear less appealing or beneficial than it is. This approach is meant to cause a negative or reluctant response from the other person, which is frequently communicated verbally, through facial expressions, or body language. However, the party using the “Wince” tactic plans to adjust or improve their proposal afterward, creating an impression of flexibility and cooperation. Use this tactic when you expect the other party to react skeptically to your initial proposal.

You can also use “Wince” to manage expectations by starting with a less attractive offer and then improving it, making the other party more likely to agree. In short, use it when you want to strategically control the way your proposal is perceived and create room for discussion in your negotiation. When confronted with this method, remember to remain neutral and calm. They may initially provide a less favorable suggestion to get a reaction from you. Instead of reacting emotionally, seek clarification if necessary. Professionally express your concerns and take advantage of this opportunity for a productive dialogue.

Evaluate their proposal based on its merits and your goals, not just the initial presentation. Be open to potential improvements while keeping your interests in mind. Always communicate respectfully to encourage constructive negotiations.

14. Play Dumb

“Play Dumb” is a negotiation tactic where one party pretends not to know or understand certain aspects of the negotiation, even if they do. They do this to encourage the other party to share information or reveal details that may benefit the pretender. Essentially, it’s acting unaware to gain an advantage. In simpler terms, it’s like pretending you don’t know something in a negotiation to make the other side share more information with you. You should employ the “Play Dumb” tactic when you suspect that the other party has important information that could benefit your negotiation position.

Acting as if you don’t know certain details can help you gather valuable insights without revealing your own knowledge. It may be used to see how accessible the other side is with information, to persuade them to elaborate on their position, and to assess their flexibility. Furthermore, expressing interest in their point of view through “Play Dumb” helps foster a sense of cooperation. When you notice the other party using the “Play Dumb” tactic, remember to be cautious with the information you share. Recognize that they might already know more than they’re letting on. Share only what’s necessary and relevant to your negotiation goals, avoiding the disclosure of sensitive details. By being selective in your responses, you can protect your interests while keeping the negotiation on a productive track.

15. Red Herring

A “Red Herring” in negotiation is when someone brings up something that doesn’t really have much to do with the main topic being discussed. They do this to divert attention away from the important issues or to change the subject. It’s like talking about something off-topic to avoid discussing what’s essential in the negotiation. This tactic should be used when you want to avoid discussing a critical or uncomfortable topic in a negotiation. It’s effective when you need to shift the conversation away from important matters or when you want to buy time or create confusion by introducing something unrelated. When faced with a “Red Herring” tactic, it’s important to stay focused on the main issues that matter to your negotiation goals. Politely acknowledge the diversion but gently guide the conversation back to the important topics. Avoid getting sidetracked by unrelated elements and prioritize discussions that align with your objectives.

16. Nibbling

“Nibbling” is a negotiation strategy in which one party makes minor demands or requests after the major agreement has been achieved or is nearing completion. These extra requirements may appear insignificant, but they can have a significant influence on the total terms of the contract. The goal is to obtain more concessions or advantages without having to revisit the entire deal. This tactic should be used when you want to secure extra benefits or concessions without risking a breakdown in the negotiation. It’s effective when you believe the other party is committed to the deal and is unlikely to walk away over minor requests. When faced with “Nibbling” evaluate the additional requests and consider their impact on the overall agreement. Respond in a manner that aligns with your negotiation goals, balancing your willingness to accommodate minor requests while protecting your interests.

17. No/Higher Authority

The “No/Higher Authority” tactic is when a negotiator claims they lack the power to make decisions independently and need to consult with a higher-ranking individual or an external party for approval before agreeing to any terms or concessions in the negotiation. In essence, it’s a way of shifting the responsibility for decisions to someone else. This tactic is used when a negotiator wants to delay making decisions, avoid immediate concessions, or deflect responsibility for agreeing to terms. It’s especially helpful when they need more time to evaluate proposals, assess the other party’s flexibility, or create a sense of external oversight in the negotiation. When faced with “No/Higher Authority” tactics, be patient and evaluate the allegation. If the negotiator seems genuine, let them ask for consent. Verify the higher authority’s legitimacy and decision-making capability.

Learn These Skills With Negotiation Training From Shapiro Negotiations

The efficacy of these strategies depends on their inherent adaptability, which allows customization and enhancement to seamlessly line up with the unique circumstances of a negotiating scenario. By acquiring a comprehensive understanding of these strategies and their practical implementations, negotiators can develop the necessary competence to successfully navigate the complex landscape of negotiations.

Learn These Negotiation Tactics In Negotiation Training From Shapiro Negotiations Established with science and backed by experience, the Shapiro Negotiations training program demonstrates an impressive record of proven success in helping clients secure more long-term business opportunities, increase their employees’ productivity, and navigate conflict. We assess each business’s individual needs and design comprehensive, personalized, and dynamic solutions to effectively meet those needs.

Contact us today to learn how we can prepare your business team for the market of the future. Call (410) 662-4764, email us at or submit the form on our website.



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