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White Paper

Introduction to Negotiation: A Primer for "Getting to Yes"

Jan. 05, 2011
Richard Frederick


Negotiation is a dialogue intended to resolve disputes, to produce an agreement on courses of action, to bargain for individual or collective advantage, or to craft outcomes to satisfy various interests. It is the primary method of alternative dispute resolution. This white paper focuses primarily on the negotiation process, different negotiation styles, and the various elements of communication that affect the outcome, including: Negotiation Communications, Constructive Questioning, Communication Obstacles (and overcoming those obstacles), Challenging Negotiation Situations and "Traps," and, finally, completing Successful Negotiations, a.k.a. "Getting to Yes"


Negotiation Process

Negotiation is the process where two or more individuals offer and approve concessions to arrive at an accepted agreement. The negotiation process comprises steps you can take to achieve a productive and effective negotiation.

The negotiation process contains these five steps:

 1. OPEN the negotiation positively.
 2. PRESENT an agenda and budget time for each topic.
 3. DISCUSS items on the agenda.
 4. REVIEW the agreement.
 5. CLOSE the negotiation on a positive note.

Open the Negotiation Positively

Open the negotiation by establishing a positive environment. Welcome the other party and thank them for participating. Communicate to the other party the ideal conclusion for the negotiation, and communicate assurance that a mutually beneficial negotiation is going to happen.

Present an Agenda and Budget Time for Each Topic

Inform the other party that you have created an agenda for the negotiation, and confirm with the other party if they could review it. Once it is confirmed that the agenda is acceptable, and then ask the other party to help budget time for each item which needs to be discussed.

Discuss Items on the Agenda

Discuss the items on the agenda following the time line that was established. If there is difficulty agreeing on the time limits, then ask if you can revisit the item later. If the other party appears hesitant, then suggest a quick break to allow either side a moment to contemplate the matter.

Review the Agreement

When you and the other party are about to agree, ask for a couple of minutes to examine what has happened. This step is essential, because it enables you to step back from the negotiation and clear your thoughts. Additionally, it helps you to evaluate the terms that have been offered so that your decision isn't impulsive.

Close the Negotiation Positively

After discussing the items on the agenda, close the negotiation on a positive note. Even if you are unable to reach an agreement, it is important to maintain a good relationship. Stay clear of leaving any unresolved negativity that could make the other party hesitant to carry out future negotiations with you or your organization. Thank the other party for engaging in the negotiation and, if required, inform them that you will be in contact to arrange future discussions.

Negotiation Styles

Negotiation styles are about how people interact with other people during a negotiation. For instance, one person's style could be accommodating while another person might be competitive.

When the participants' strengths work effectively together, the negotiation process can be efficient and effective for both parties. Alternately, when the negotiation styles of the parties involved in the negotiation clash, the process can be difficult, and either of the parties may depart from the negotiation process feeling disappointed.

Every negotiation style consists of weaknesses and strengths that can limit or boost the negotiation process; as a result, a negotiation isn't just a result of the individual style of each participant but also by the combination of styles of everyone active in the negotiation.

The list below comprises five of the major negotiation styles.


The accommodating style is a passive model of negotiation. This model is most effective whenever targets are more crucial to the other party than they are to you. The accommodating style enables you to briefly forfeit your position for the chance to accomplish future favors.

Whenever you select the accommodating style, you would rather develop a good relationship with the other party than accomplish all of your targets. When you believe your position is weaker compared to the other party's, then accommodation can potentially help you reach a short-term resolution. However, you should not consider accommodation when the target item holds higher importance for you or when you feel the other party is behaving untruthfully, controlling, or deceitful. Letting the other party dominate can cause you dissatisfaction and future clashes with the other party. Any time you see the other party behaving inappropriately, work to talk through disparities to assure that both parties appreciate each others point of view.


The avoidance style is another passive style of negotiation. Its lose-lose positioning inhibits useful communication between the negotiating parties. Avoidance can cause feelings of dissatisfaction and anxiety, in addition to limiting personal and organizational progression of longer-term relationships, given that it can impair the negotiation process.

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