skip to main content

Be Nice in Negotiations

Civility seems to be missing these days.

Be Nice in Negotiations

I am as guilty as anyone.  I frequently take negotiating personal, and as such want to win at all costs.

Well, not really at all costs, because after I’m done, I still want a good, positive relationship with the person across the table.

Consequently, I find myself conflicted.

For example, I was having a garage sale and part of the sale was a box of old books we were selling for $0.50.  A lady offered me $0.25 for a book, and I was so enraged that she wanted to negotiate me down from a measly $0.50 to $0.25 that I ended up giving her the book for free.

This was not a good negotiating tactic on my part, or conceivably it was a great negotiating tactic on her part.


A negotiation is “a courtship, a dance,” says Michael Wheeler, a professor at Harvard Business School and author of The Art of Negotiation: How to Improvise Agreement in a Chaotic World.   Jeff Weiss, a partner at Vantage Partners, a Boston-based consultancy specializing in corporate negotiations and relationship management, points out,

“you don’t have to compromise and settle for less in order to maintain good relations.”

People think they either have to be nice to spare hard feelings, or overly tough to win.

Neither is true. Here’s how to negotiate producing lasting relationships yet outcomes that work for you.

Make small talk.  Introduce yourself and take a little time to get to know people, how they operate, and how they act. This chitchat provides crucial information and establishes rapport, and sometimes even trust.

Don’t try to buy love.  When an important business relationship is on the line, there’s a tendency to cave to the other side’s demands to avoid tension or confrontation. But conceding on price or substance because you don’t want to upset the other party is a losing scenario, even if you think you’ve temporarily saved the relationship. It is possible to challenge people respectfully.

Be creative.  Forget the word concession from your thinking – it is confrontational and antagonistic. Approach negotiating as if it is an act of joint problem-solving: What are the critical issues at hand, what are my interests and their interests, and what are some different possible options for satisfying those various interests? Negotiation isn’t about conceding anything, it’s about finding creative solutions.

Stress “we” over “I.”  Highlight what you have in common. Using “we” rather than “I” signals to the other side that there are areas of agreement and that you envision a future working together.

Ask questions…and listen.  Great negotiators don’t simply present their demands; they ask careful questions designed to understand the other side’s interests better.

Walk in the other person’s shoes.  Don’t assume that the other side’s positions are deliberate acts of provocation; they may have pressures of their own that aren’t immediately apparent. We have to remember that they may be operating under constraints as well.

The Bible

The primary reason we are to be nice in negotiations is that God has commanded us to be nice.

Titus 2:7-8 says.

Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity,  and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us.

Romans 12:2 says.

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

And Luke 6:31 says.

And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.

We are all at some point, negotiating.  We negotiate with the mechanic who works on our car, our boss for a raise, and with our kids to get them to clean their rooms.  And in every instance, shouldn’t the outcome be to get what we want and, of equal importance, to be seen as a good and respectful person?

            We always need to work perfecting our negotiating skills so that we exude integrity dignity, and sound speech.