How to Think Like a Successful Negotiator

Jeff Cochran


To be successful in business and in life, a person should have some knowledge of negotiation. More specifically, a person should know how to think like a negotiator. This does not mean looking for how to spin any situation to your advantage. Many businessmen hurt their cause by thinking only of their own desires and goals when going into negotiation situations.

Successful people in modern times tend to wear a constant mask of confidence, going into every conversation with a self-assured attitude and fully expecting to get whatever they want. While confidence is an admirable trait, and one that is respected in business situations, it must be tempered to be truly effective. A person’s success in negotiation, like everything else in life, relies upon balance.

The best negotiators have a wide variety of traits they use in concert to make the best deals. They work to find mutually beneficial solutions that allow for collaboration in the future. Three traits and attitudes that are universally held by great negotiators are:

Confidence: Confidence is important for earning the respect of your co-negotiators. At a negotiation, both sides want to appear in control. Being confident in yourself and knowing what you want is the best way to show your mastery of a situation.

However, confidence that is not balanced with other traits can quickly become arrogance. Arrogant people make few real friends and earn little respect from those they deal with. If they are proven wrong, their arrogance is shown to be unfounded and even less palatable than when it appears to be born of continued success.

Humility: Confidence is most effective at the negotiation table when it is tempered with humility. All great leaders have had confident humility; the ability to know they are right and an expectation of success balanced with kindness to those around them, as well as not seeking to place themselves above their comrades. 

Humility is not highly prized at the negotiation table, often being perceived as weakness. True humility, however, means recognizing you may be incorrect and in need of another’s guidance to become successful. People with confident humility do not gloat in their success, but treat their co-negotiator with respect at all times so that he or she will return to the negotiation table in the future.

Big Picture Understanding: Lesser negotiators become too focused on the deal at hand, looking only to achieve their goals and not considering anything else. The best negotiators know that to be successful one must fully understand a situation; the goals of one’s opponent, the overarching goals of one’s own company, the current economic climate, and more. Doing thorough research on any and all information that might be relevant to your negotiation often gives the best results. Incomplete understanding leads to weaker negotiations.

6 Common Negotiation Mistakes

Jeff Cochran


There is a dearth of information available on how to be a successful negotiator. A person needs to be confident, decisive, and articulate. He or she must also fully understand the negotiation situation, and the negotiator must go into negotiations with a clear idea of his or her company’s goals as well as the goals of the opponent. Nonetheless, there are certain common, avoidable mistakes that negotiators make consistently such as:

  • Failure to compromise: Everyone knows that compromise is the key to successful negotiation. Compromise is the tool that has made it possible for companies to enter into successful partnerships for decades. When a negotiator becomes proud or feels offended, they may refuse to make compromises, putting their company in an undesirable situation.
  • Becoming too emotional: A good negotiator keeps their emotions off the table, working with their opponent in a calm and efficient manner. When people allow emotions to dictate their actions, they often make poor decisions. Anger, frustration, and embarrassment can be the cause of a failed negotiation and missed opportunities.
  • Acting overly formal: If negotiators are tense and exceedingly polite or formal, coming to a successful solution or partnership could take much longer than anticipated. Negotiations should flow smoothly, and as such the negotiators should develop a loose camaraderie or pleasant working relationship. Negotiators who remain tense might take offense or cause offense when none was intended, damaging the negotiation relationship.
  • Lack of research: Before entering into negotiations, a businessman or woman must make sure they have all of the information they might need and more. Successful negotiators research all information relevant to the individual or company they will be working with, the topic or area of business which they will be discussing, and the goals and desires of each party involved in the negotiation. Failure to research thoroughly can lead to an opponent quickly gaining the upper hand and taking control of the negotiation.
  • Not listening: The best way to find out information about what your co-negotiator wants is by listening to them. When a negotiator speaks more than they listen, they often fail to understand their opponent’s position and end up making poor negotiation decisions.

Preventing future collaboration: Even if a negotiation is unsuccessful, it is unwise to not leave an option open for future collaboration. There will always be a time when two parties can each provide something the other needs, and precluding that option is a foolish negotiation decision.

When entering into negotiations, a person should always practice good negotiation techniques such as remaining confident and decisive. He or she should also take steps to ensure that the mistakes listed above are avoided, so the negotiation can go smoothly and successfully.

2014 World Cup: Lessons for Success

Jeff Cochran


The World Cup is the largest sporting event on the planet and has been dominating conversation for the past few weeks. The event has drawn soccer teams (football teams in the rest of the world) together from all over the world to determine which country has the best team. However, we can learn more from the World Cup than which soccer team is the best. There are three important business lessons to be found in this year’s World Cup.

1. Embrace change: FIFA, the organization responsible for the World Cup, managed to incorporate the use of technology in a way that was not possible in previous Cups and increased fan involvement on a tremendous scale. By utilizing mobile technology to promote the games, FIFA was able to get the greatest access to the largest number of fans. The number of attendees who took and sent selfies and cell phone pictures was higher than in any other sporting event, and Facebook and Twitter were constantly buzzing with status updates and comments about the games.

FIFA was able to encourage this by embracing the use of mobile technology and social media. If companies learn to embrace changes in technology and changes in culture, they too can raise awareness of their products and develop a loyal customer base.

2. Learn effective teamwork: Soccer is a team sport, and like any team sport it requires excellent collaboration and communications skills between players. Teams in the World Cup this year boasted some of the most famous and skilled players in the world, and yet those teams fell to less skilled players who were able to work together more effectively.

Businesses need all of their employees working together to become successful. If a few employees are hardworking and extremely productive, their efforts might be cancelled out by other employees who tend to slack off. Successful business requires communication at all levels and between all employees as well as hardworking and dedicated employees who know their jobs and do them well.

3. Build community: In addition to collaborating to become an effective work force, employees should enjoy working together. The World Cup drew together fans from all types of cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds and made them into one community, bound by one common interest. USA fans who had never met each other cheered and celebrated together with every victory, and groaned and comforted one another with every defeat.

Successful businesses like Google, Apple, and Pixar take great strides to create a sense of community among their employees. Individual workspace decoration is encouraged, video games and board games are available at breaks, and ideas are welcomed from even the newest employees. Making work a place where employees feel comfortable and happy is a great way to create a more successful business.

6 Body Language Tips for Negotiations

Andres Lares


  • Improve your standing and influence at the next round of negotiations!

Experienced negotiators know the words a person says around the negotiation table are far less important than how those words are delivered. They recognize that body language can play a huge role in how negotiations go, and have noted that skilled negotiators work hard to present a confident, charismatic picture. People are hardwired to react to visual cues, and understanding how to appear confident and strong goes a long way in negotiation.

Some visual cues have become well known, such as crossed arms indicating a closed-off person. A few of the other cues that may prove useful in negotiations are listed and explained in more detail below:

  • Stand up straight and take up space. 

Keeping your back straight and your head up is the best way to send a message of self-assurance and alertness. By taking up space, you send a message of authority and power to those around you. Learning to project authority is an important part of negotiation training. While standing or giving a presentation, move around to make your physical presence larger and keep your stance wide while standing still.

  • Keep a wide stance

Keeping your feet spread apart and your body weight centered will give others the impression of your power and confidence. You will appear solid and steady, and no matter the situation, others will perceive you as being at ease.

  • Maintain eye contact 

While too much eye contact can be seen as somewhat unnerving, it is always better to make frequent and intentional eye contact with your audience. Whether negotiating with a group of people or only one person, make and keep eye contact, especially when explaining key issues or important points.

  • Use positive hand gestures 

Most people, when giving a presentation or explaining an issue, use their hands to illustrate the point. Whether this is by keeping track of listed points by counting them on their fingers or by using hand motions to simulate the actions of what is being discussed, hand movements are often underappreciated.

When negotiating, it is important to use positive hand gestures while eschewing any nervous ticks or habitual hand movements that take away from your power image. For example, folding your hands together in a pleading fashion is a nervous habit some employ to stop their hands from shaking. Steepling your fingers, however, sends the message that what you are about to say is of vast importance, and makes you seem more calm and collected.

  • Smile 

Smiling is the easiest way to put another person at ease and will often make you more memorable in a positive light. This is because smiling at a person usually leads to their smiling back at you, and the act of smiling often triggers happy feelings. By smiling at someone you can make them feel happy, which will in turn cause them to associate those happy feelings with seeing you.

  • Lower your vocal pitch

People with higher pitched voices may often be seen as more nervous and less powerful than those who speak in a lower register, and are thus viewed as less empathetic and not as trustworthy. Consider, for example, the voice of James Earl Jones. Any character played by him in film instantly becomes viewed as a powerful force with which to be reckoned.

By employing these non-verbal cues, you will improve your standing and influence at the next round of negotiations. You can quickly transform from a mere observer of negotiations to the most powerful person in the room based simply on your body language.