Simply Said
Simply Said
Simply Said is the essential handbook for business communication.

Negotiations - “You want how much!?!”


“This ultimatum is just going to make most players angry…” said Chris Duhon, when the Orlando Magic’s NBA player rep learned about another “final offer” by owners during the recent lockout talks. The players were so angry that they threatened legal action. Whether you are negotiating a contract or deciding who brings the cookies for a holiday gathering, meeting the needs of everyone involved is a challenge. Here are some tips for more successful, collaborative discussions.

PLAN your strategy

Boost your confidence in a negotiation by setting realistic goals and boundaries for an acceptable outcome. To PLAN your approach:


  • Prepare high objectives – but beware of deadlocks if you set them too high
  • Look at what the other side will want – or where you think they will start
  • Acquire a bottom line – know your walk-away position
    (and a plan B if the negotiation fails)
  • Name your currencies – these are items besides money that you can bargain

The more you PLAN, the better you will do. This is especially true for Naming your currencies.

Create a long list of "currencies"

What has value in a negotiation? Currencies are non-monetary items that you could offer that might benefit the other party and move the terms in your direction. For example, when selling a house, the home appliances or furniture could be currencies that make the sale price more attractive to the buyer. These bargaining chips could include volume, timing, referrals, or service, among many other options. The more currencies you identify, the more likely you will discover a suitable outcome for both sides. 

Find out what they want

Knowing your own objectives and currencies is important, but it’s only part of the equation. When negotiating, your main job is to discover the real interests of the other side. Since it’s usually not just about the money, probe to understand what other currencies hold sway. What is in it for them? When you satisfy the other party’s real interests as well as your own, you are more likely to craft a lasting, win-win solution.

Keep talking

In a recent New York Time’s profile of Leon Panetta, current Secretary of Defense and 45 year veteran of public service, a longtime aide articulated two of Panetta’s principles for “survival” in Washington:  

  1. “You can’t slam dunk anyone - work with opponents.
  2. "In a negotiation, take what you can get...and then come back for more.”

If you focus on the relationship as well as the results, you keep the door open for future discussions and mutually beneficial agreements.

Good luck with your negotiations and those cookies. Happy Holidays!

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