• How To Influence Your Negotiating Partner


    How well do you understand your negotiating partner when you begin a negotiation?

    I’ve been running a NEGOTIATIONS programme with French executives and they get very interested in three key concepts.

    • Negotiate on INTERESTS not POSITIONS.

    • Be HARD on the PRINCIPLES but SOFT on the people.

    • Negotiate on the basis of OBJECTIVE CRITERIA not JUST INSTINCT.

    These aren’t my ideas. They come from Roger Fisher and William Ury’s ‘Getting to Yes’ (Random House 1991) but translated into many languages.

    However, we learned that in order to understand your negotiating partner’s real interests, and their personality, as well as the objective criteria that will convince them, you have to understand their psychology.

    How can you do that?


    Well first of all, find out as much as you can about the negotiator and his or her company.

    You need to know the core business and also the current export plans and the current economic situation. This may give you an insight into the real interests behind the negotiation. Don’t rush in. Keep asking questions. Don’t leave it to other people. Do it yourself. The research you do will pay off.

    Also find out about how the company does business. First list what happens in your company and then you can compare with your negotiating partner’s company.

    This chart from Key Business Skills may be helpful.

    Eight key factors influence how decisions are made. If you understand your partner's decision-making process, it will help you negotiate agreements. Decide your style first. Then compare your style with a person you negotiate with.

    How might you have to adapt your negotiating style to work well with your partners?


    It’s important to learn as much as possible about the person you will be negotiating with.

    Find out about their education, where they have worked before and in particular how much international experience they have had. If you do this it will begin to give you an insight as to what they might think and how they might approach your proposal. Obviously, you could be wrong but it will give you a platform to start from. However, equally obviously, drive cautiously at first. Don’t accelerate too fast. The CULTURE STAR code © is useful here.


    Listen carefully not just to WHAT your negotiating partner says but also HOW they say it.

    The NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) understanding of learning styles is useful here.

    NLP identifies three learning styles:

    • Visual (seeing/reading)

    • Audial (hearing)

    • Kinaesthetic (feeling/ doing)

    We all do all three but one dominates, usually Visual.

    The way you can tell is by listening to how they describe their perceptions.

    Visual: ‘I see what you mean’.

    Audial: ‘I hear what you say.’

    Kinaesthetic: ‘That feels about right.’

    Of course, there is more to it than that but these phrases will indicate the learning style. If you feed these back to your negotiating partner it will create empathy and get a better result.

    Another way to create empathy is to mirror your negotiating partner’s way of sitting and using his/her arms and eye contact. Be cautious. Get it wrong and it looks like imitation. Get it right and you are subconsciously indicating to your negotiating partner that you are on their side.

    These are all ways of showing your negotiating partner that you are ‘one of them’ and therefore they will wish to be more co-operative. Once again, let me summarise the two stages.


    • Research the company and the industry.

    • Find out about your negotiating partner’s background and experience, national and international.

    • Use the chat to explore the meeting and decision making procedures in the company


    • Try mirroring your negotiating partner.

    • Try understanding their learning style and feeding information to them using the same words.

    • Create personal empathy which will make it easier to be firm on principle.

    All these will help you ‘Get to Yes’ more easily, efficiently and agreeably.

    Trainer Briefing

    Here’s how I introduce these techniques with my groups. I work on a seven step programme for a period of 60 -90 minutes.


    Explain the three GETTING TO YES principled negotiation concepts (there are more but these will do to start.)


    Get the group to map their style and then the style of the country/countries they are dealing with.


    Compare results and decide how to adapt.


    Get each person to practise mirroring someone else in the room.

    Then get them to practise with a partner.


    Introduce the three learning styles and elicit examples of the verbs that might fit each style.


    VISUAL - See

    AUDIAL - Hear


    Write them on the board or flip chart.


    Get the group in pairs to discuss a topic and listen to the words each person uses to describe or express understanding. Encourage them to note words they hear in meetings that indicate a particular learning style.


    Finally, you can set up a negotiation on a company related problem. The aim is to identify the problem and to find a solution. Divide the group into pairs or small groups (no more than four or five). One group is identifying the problem and establishing the objective criteria. The other has to create empathy and create a joint approach to finding solutions.

    Run the simulation for 15 or 20 minutes and take notes on what you see or hear. (If you wish, appoint an observer to do this.) Finally, get feedback and summarise bet practice.

    You can learn more about negotiating skills with recorded dialogues and exercises at CEFR B2-C1 level in KEY BUSINESS SKILLS by Barry Tomalin, published by Harper Collins in December 2012.


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