Organizational Communication For LeadersDawson (“Secrets of Power Negotiating” book) lists several negotiation “pressure points”….time pressure, information power, walking away, “take it or leave it”, the fait accompli, hot potato, and ultimatums. Choose one these pressure points, and describe a situation when you have been effective in using it, or when it has been effectively used on you.

Fundamentals of Negotiation


Negotiating can be intimidating, frustrating, and overwhelming. Yet when you look at the dictionary, the written definition of the process appears simple. Negotiation is give-and-take between people or between people and organizations. To negotiate means to bargain, to make arrangements, to settle with someone. It is the art of reaching agreement through an effective exchange of information.

This lecture will help you distinguish between different types of negotiations and introduce you to some of the fundamental aspects of negotiation.

Everyone negotiates. When you were in high school, you probably negotiated with your parents about curfew time, car privileges, and permission for special activities. As an organizational communicator, you will negotiate for salary increases, special job assignments, an office with a view – you name it!

Developing successful negotiations requires:

1. learning the process of negotiating

2. understanding yourself

3. building better relationships

If any one aspect is ignored, then negotiations will be less effective.

Negotiating is a process that helps both parties share ideas, information, and options while they seek mutually acceptable outcomes. For this to happen, fundamental negotiating elements must be present. It is the resolution of a disagreement, using give-and-take within the context of a particular relationship. Distributive negotiation involves fixed-pie and win-lose thinking. Integrative negotiation provides a win-win approach to better results for both parties. Added-value negotiation involves clarifying interests, identifying options, designing alternative deal packages, selecting a deal, and perfecting the deal.

By understanding the fundamentals of negotiation and how to create positive negotiations, you can turn your negotiations into win-win solutions!

Negotiation Scenario

Justin McLeroy, director of operations, has just returned from an emergency meeting in the senior vice president’s office. He learned that he is to leave in two days to negotiate a contract with one of the local unions over health benefits, maternity/paternity leave, and on-site day-care centers. The person who was going to handle the negotiation, the local general manager of the manufacturing plant, suddenly died and Justin seemed like the ideal choice since he is somewhat familiar with the local situation. This plant was in his territory when he was a sales representative four years ago. Union support for the contract is very important to the company, although it will not be easy since the company is losing money and must find ways to reduce costs. The biggest sticking points will be maternity/paternity leave and the day-care centers. Justin’s company knows that giving in on these benefits to this local union will set a precedent and create the same demands among all the union’s locals in the company. The people that Justin will be negotiating with run the gambit of older, traditional workers, young workers wanting to start families, and workers with established families. Justin has heard from the grapevine that even his negotiating counterparts cannot completely agree on their highest priorities. They are simply saying that the company must produce a contract granting all their demands, in spite of how unrealistic this would be. Justin also knows that the negotiating sessions could become very heated, even volatile.

What types of goals would be most appropriate for Justin to set for his negotiations with the local union?

Are there particular bargaining tactics that would work best in this situation? Explain.

If Justin finds that interpersonal conflict is inevitable, what conflict management tactics would work best in this situation?

Difficult Negotiation Situations


Negotiations are not always easy, clean, or nice. Often, despite careful preparation and your commitment to a win-win outcome, the other person doesn’t cooperate. When the other party is being difficult, you can address the trouble directly and keep the negotiation on a principled track.

What to Do When People Say “No”

1. Don’t take it personally.

The other person’s response is a reaction to the circumstances, not to you. When you assume the other person is trying “to get you,” you get in trouble. It is easier to stay calm when you don’t take the person’s resistance personally. The other party probably would have responded “no” to anyone under the same circumstances. Remember that you weren’t singled out as the special person to receive a “no.”

2. Have “Plan B” and “Plan C” ready at all times.

Propose alternatives as ideas rather than solutions. If the other party says, “no,” be ready with options. Make sure the ideas highlight the benefits for both parties. Make them the best options you can possibly offer. But don’t sell yourself short. Don’t “give away the store.” Say, “One fair alternative might be . . .” or “What if we did . . .” See how you can modify your suggestions. Sometimes a small change makes all the difference toward finding solutions.

3. Suggest a temporary postponement in the decision.

Ask that you not have to accept the other person’s response as a definite “no” in order that both parties have more time to think it through. If the other person agrees to rethink, you haven’t received a “no” after all. You’ve received a “maybe – I’ll think about it.”

Three Magic Phrases

When negotiations don’t get you what you want initially, it is important to thank the other person for his/her effort, rather than get frustrated and demean the effort. Three magic phrases that often work are:

1. “I respect . . .”

2. “I appreciate . . .”

3. “I agree . . .”

These phrases defuse the differences between you and the other party and convey how you value the other person for participating in the negotiation. What follows the magic phrases is not nearly as important as the phrases themselves. You might say:

1. “I respect your honesty with me . . . “

2. “I appreciate the time you are giving me . . .”

3. “I agree, we have a problem . . .”

More Tips for Handling Difficult Negotiations

1. Listen to the person.

Ask the individual to repeat what he/she said. Sometimes we are the difficult person, because we fail to hear what someone is saying. Often we accuse others of saying one think when they meant another because we weren’t listening.

2. Repeat for clarification – paraphrase.

“Let me see, this is what I hear you saying (repeat). Am I correct?” Or “Let me ask you a few questions to make sure I have my facts straight (repeat).” Or “Please correct me if I am wrong, you said (repeat).” All these statements clarify for you and the other party what was said.

3. If the behavior or demands are escalating, disengage.

Don’t be a victim of someone else’s threats. Leave the door open for future negotiating. Make an appointment to discuss the matter another time. Consider a cooling off period if tempers flare. Sometimes a physical disengagement, however brief, is necessary because it gives the parties a chance to change their positions and soften their attitudes. The physical break lets everyone “save face” by releasing the parties from having to give in.

4. Use detouring to switch subjects or start a new discussion.

Detouring can interrupt the negotiation, refocus both parties and create a better atmosphere. This involves “leaving” the subject for a moment and returning. Make a joke (if appropriate in the situation), get a cup of coffee, suggest a 10 minute break, etc. The participants can escape to neutral ground. Keep in mind that detouring will NOT work if it appears that you are trying to stall or buy time. In this case, you may create greater barriers.

5. Issuing threats, ultimatums, or demands against adversaries is rarely useful.

Negative tactics usually lead to resentment and conflict. (“If I don’t get that raise immediately, I’ll quit today.”

A professional demeanor should be maintained throughout the negotiation. Avoid resorting to underhanded or unethical tactics. (“You just don’t like me, do you?”)


There are many instances of negotiation sessions that can lead to serious conflict among parties. In our imperfect world, not every negotiation ends in a win-win. A difficult person may not respond to our strategies. Sometimes it seems that no amount of sharing or educating will get you to a “yes.”

Taking a break to collect your thoughts and clear your head is an effective way to manage anxiety in difficult situations. While the tension may continue to build as negotiations progress, consider using the tactics in this lesson to increase your chances of resolving any conflicts in a successful and positive manner.