by Bob MacKenzie

You as a negotiator

Despite the difficulties that are frequently associated with negotiations, the good news is that we can all learn to negotiate successfully in the right circumstances.

We know that we’ve achieved a successful negotiation when all the parties involved feel rewarded and empowered by the process. Successful outcomes are much more likely if we’re conscious that we’re involved in a negotiation, and if we know what to do during its various stages.

Successful negotiation can be difficult, but you can learn how to do it.

First, however, you need to assess your current strengths and development needs as a negotiator on the basis of your past experience.

What negotiations have you been involved in?

Negotiations are all around us. Some people are highly-trained professional negotiators – for example, representatives at international trade deals, such as G8 summits, or negotiators in hostage situations. These people are specialists, but in our personal and working lives we’re all involved in negotiations every day.

  • If you are a parent, you might well have had to find ways of negotiating with your teenager to get them to agree to do some household chores.
  • As a manager, you might have had to enter into negotiations with a staff member who’s seeking a salary increase.

Often, we’re not aware that we’re engaged in a negotiation. And that lack of awareness can disadvantage us, preventing us from achieving the best possible outcome.

What is your personal experience of negotiation?


Print out the brief questionnaire, Your experience of negotiation, and make a few notes in response to each question to prompt your thinking.

Most people have been involved in far more negotiations than they realise. These range from buying major purchases, such as a house or a car, right through to negotiating who gets to take the kids to the football match or a concert, and whose turn it is to mow the lawn.

Add this to any business negotiations and you’ll recognise that you already have considerable negotiating experience.

How good a negotiator are you?


To find out how good a negotiator you are, print out Your negotiating skills, and fill in the right-hand column appropriately.

Interpreting your results

  • If you are the sole negotiator on your side, you should really be scoring 100 per cent to have the best chance of achieving a successful outcome.
  • If you are a member of a negotiating team, you can afford to score as low as 50 per cent overall, provided that you can score at least some fours or fives in critical areas that are relevant to your negotiation role, and provided that, collectively, the members of your team can provide complementary skills.
  • Be sure to pay special attention to working to improve your scores on those individual items on which you scored three or less.

Encourage the rest of your negotiating team to complete the questionnaire on negotiating skills and then discuss with them the implications of their results.

In your preparations for your next team negotiation, you might like to encourage all members of your negotiation team to complete this questionnaire, and then discuss the results with them.

Aim to develop a negotiation improvement plan, where necessary.

Developing your skills

If you’d like to develop your negotiation skills further, there is much that you can do. Seek out material, including other topics, on interpersonal skills (see Emotional Intelligence, Body Language and Rapport) and anything to do with Political Intelligence, Goal Setting, Problem Solving, Decision Making, Conflict Resolution and communication in general (see Listening Skills and Questioning Skills). All are highly relevant to effective negotiation.

Consider going on a specialised training course or gain experience through shadowing, sitting in on or participating as a junior player in other people’s negotiations.

Also see Want to know more?