Negotiation tactics: why they are a crucial element

Wondering how to get better at negotiating? Understanding tactics is the key

Knowing how to negotiate well is a crucial skill that can be applied to a wide range of environments, from politics and personal relationships to business contracts and workplace interactions. Any time we seek to influence another party, we are potentially negotiating.

In the workplace, for example, we use negotiation tactics and strategies in project planning, business contracts and transactions, conflict resolution, salary negotiations, performance reviews and resource allocation, as well as everyday interpersonal communication. The best negotiation tactics will be effective across all these scenarios.

What are negotiation tactics? They are single techniques or actions that we build into our overall negotiation strategies. There are lots of them, and they can be combined or used individually. A well-planned strategy will include a wide selection of carefully chosen tactics to enable skillful management of twists and turns in the negotiation meeting and achieve optimum outcomes. That’s why understanding tactics is vital for knowing how to improve negotiation skills.

What are some negotiation tactics we can use in the workplace?

Negotiation tactics draw on behaviours that range from collaborative to competitive in nature. So which tactics will be the most effective varies with the situation, the two parties in the negotiation, and the desired outcomes.

With our employer, we may be more likely to use collaborative tactics. Salary negotiating tactics, for example, could be:

  • highlighting our accomplishments and the industry standards for the position
  • promoting the positive benefits for the company of the proposal
  • leveraging the relationship with our manager
  • making an emotional appeal
  • summarising your arguments
  • being patient and politely persistent.

However, if we’re negotiating a contract or a business deal, tactics could be collaborative or competitive. Examples of top negotiation tactics for these scenarios include:

  • identifying common goals
  • developing relationship and trust
  • offering multiple options
  • asking leading but open-ended questions
  • offering a concession
  • setting deadlines
  • suddenly shifting approach or argument
  • deliberately misunderstanding a point or statement.

A tip: take care if using strongly competitive tactics in a workplace environment, as they could impede the progress of the negotiation or have longer-lasting consequences for relationships with colleagues or management.

When are negotiation tactics considered to be manipulative?

Competitive tactics are appropriate and effective in some negotiations, but they can go too far. If our focus shifts to gaining an advantage over the other party at their expense or our behaviours are unethical, our tactics may have crossed the line into manipulative. As a result, the negotiation may become hostile, unproductive and bogged down.

If you’re feeling intimidated, emotional, powerless, threatened or confused and finding it difficult to remember your own strategy, the other party may be employing manipulative negotiation tactics. To manage the situation, call out the tactic: tell the other party you recognise what they’re doing. Perhaps defuse any hostility by laughing off their efforts. Above all, refuse to respond as expected.

But what tactics are manipulative? Since the line between ‘competitive’ and ‘manipulative’ can be grey, they can be difficult to identify, which means they can disrupt our strategy if we aren’t aware. Behaviours to watch out for include:

  • misrepresenting information
  • making negative comments
  • making threats or personal slights
  • setting unrealistic demands
  • faking anger, empathy or ignorance
  • walking out of the negotiation
  • re-opening previously settled issues.

Tactics like these can undermine trust and credibility and severely damage the relationship between the two parties. And as relationship building is one of the most effective tactics in strategic negotiation, it’s worth thinking carefully before resorting to any kind of manipulative behaviours.

How do I learn better negotiating tactics and strategies?

An ability to negotiate is a core capability for business and personal success, so becoming a highly skilled negotiator is a worthwhile goal. While many courses and workshops promise to show people how to negotiate well, what the best strategies are, or how to win over the other party, the ENS negotiation and influencing methodology is different.

Our global experience in training highly skilled negotiators over the past 40 years proves that our sophisticated, psychology-based process methodology is far more effective in securing desired outcomes than an approach focused on facts, statistics or arguments. Our courses on negotiation, facilitated by our global network of strategists and delivered in 11 languages, receive a 94% approval rating from participants.

If you’re serious about learning to transform the way you negotiate, we can show you how. ENS offers several pathways for you to develop skills in effective negotiating:

  • Participative Public Training Workshops, facilitated off-site and online by our expert Negotiation Strategists to small groups of like-minded individuals, are experiential and fast-paced, using real-world scenarios to ensure relevance and learning.
  • Active in-house Company Training Programs are tailored to meet the specific needs of your business and facilitated by ENS’ Negotiation Strategists in your own offices or at a venue of your choice.
  • Dedicated Consultations, either virtually or face to face, prepare you for an upcoming negotiation, with our Negotiation Strategists guiding you at every stage of the process to strengthen your position, gain confidence and achieve long-term success.

Find out how ENS’ training and consultancy services can introduce you to a better negotiation approach and achieve more than you thought possible. Contact

ENS Team
ENS Team

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