Flexibility When Negotiating

In this blog, we’ve discussed many different negotiating strategies (MESO, Hardball, Framing, and even when you shouldn’t negotiate.). But you can’t use all of them all the time. You shouldn’t even use ONE of them all the time. You have to have flexibility when negotiating.

Think about this. When choosing a restaurant to go out to eat, do you take your mother-in-law, your spouse, your bowling team and your children to the same restaurant? Of course not, you are flexible and consider the temperament and your relationship with your dining partner, and of course, your budget.

The same principle also applies to your negotiation strategy and behavior. Every negotiation is unique and we must adapt our strategy and style to the temperament, relationship, and of course, our leverage with our negotiation counterpart.

Often, when coaching a client who is preparing for a specific negotiation, they say to me… “but this worked last time, why can’t I do it again?” That’s the downside of doing well in a negotiation. We often want to repeat the strategies we used in the next negotiation. Then we get frustrated when it fails miserably.


I have a client, we’ll call him Rob, who is very talkative and friendly by nature. I was asked to coach him in a crucial upcoming negotiation with a reputed hardball negotiator. The stakes were high, and his boss was afraid  his friendly nature would be a disadvantage in this critical negotiation.

While we can’t change our personality to fit every one of our counterparts, we can learn to use the best strategy for our current counterpart.

I coached Rob to withhold his friendly, talkative nature at the outset of the negotiation, as his counterpart was allergic to small talk. However, we practiced having him use his friendly nature to work for him when his counterpart lobbed hardball, intimidating remarks at him.

When his counterpart snapped at him, Rob looked him in the eye calmly and said, Hey Don, let’s keep this friendly, ok? Want a cup of coffee? This did it; his counterpart got the message – intimidation won’t work.

What about you?

Do you like small talk, or do you want to cut to the chase? Do you like creative problem solving when the negotiation hits a stalemate, or do you just want your counterpart to suggest possible resolutions? Would you prefer to have the facts explained in length at the meeting, or just have them in writing to look at later?

Successful negotiators consider WHO they are negotiating with as they prepare.

If we aren’t sure who we will be negotiating with, it’s our job to pick up the signals and clues and continue to change our strategy and behaviors if we see they are not succeeding. This doesn’t mean we make unnecessary concessions, but it does mean we must have many strategies and learn to use those most appropriate for our current negotiation.

Remember to always Negotiate Smart™!


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