Negotiation in business
[] Improve Your Negotiation Skills

7 Exercises and Activities to Improve Your Negotiation Skills

Our lives are preoccupied with a series of endless negotiations. But many don’t even know that they negotiate every day, let alone want to learn how to improve their negotiation skills.

And these negotiations could be bargaining for a better deal from a car dealership or a valuable landed property from a real estate company. 

It could also be negotiating your way into gaining employment with a prospective employer during an interview. Just as it could also be trying to talk your kids into focusing on their schoolwork each time they come back from school. That’s not allowing them to spend all day watching Disney cartoons or some movies for children on Nickelodeon or the likes.

In this article, we shall look at:

  • What is negotiation?
  • Types of negotiation?
  • Types of negotiation skills? 
  • Barriers to good negotiation
  • How to improve your negotiation skills in business and at the workplace

What is negotiation?

Negotiation is any form of a discussion between two or more parties intended to reach an agreeable conclusion or compromise. It is usually an interdependent and interpersonal process. That is to say, all business negotiations or any other negotiations must involve two or more parties whose interests are not only at stake but are willing to talk things out.

Nelson Mandela, a great negotiator, once commented that “Negotiation and discussion are the greatest weapons we have to promote peace and development.”

Meanwhile, there is no specification on how long a negotiation should last. Some negotiation processes may take a few minutes to get finalized, and others may take days, weeks, months, or even years. 


Types of negotiation?

As individuals or groups, our rise or success in the business world—and in getting better deals— is dependent on our practical understanding of the most common types of negotiations. And in this article, we shall consider the four of them:

1. Distributive negotiation

Distributive negotiation is a type of negotiation whereby the parties involved try to haggle for their interest over a fixed value of a limited resource such as money, asset, etc. Here, winning for one side will amount to a loss for the other party.

That’s because one party makes a deal or offers close to the value of interest to them. Say, for example, you walk into a boutique to get a pair of jeans with a maximum budget of $50. But right there, after much haggling, the boutique owner gave his final price of $60. 

At this point, you see that the “winning value point” for the boutique owner is $60. Therefore, anything less than that will be a loss for him. And that is if he eventually agrees to sell it for $50. In other words, you win, and he loses. And vice versa.

However, note distributive negotiation can be called a zero-sum or win-lose negotiation.

2. Integrative Negation

Integrative Negation is the type of negotiation whereby parties involved can bargain for their interest over more than a single factor or something of value, which can be in the form of time, asset, money, or as the case may be. 

For example, take the case of negotiating with a prospective employer for an employment opportunity. You have the choice to bargain with your employer over things like the amount to be paid as salary, other benefits like bonus, HMOs, operation time, and leave entitlements, amongst other things.

Hence, in an integrative negotiation, the parties involved make collaborative efforts in pushing for a win-win agreement. That is through attentively listening to the other negotiator(s).

Therefore, it is also called a win-win negotiation or collaborative bargaining. Integrative negotiation, therefore, different from distributive negotiation and, of course, more complex.

3. Multiparty negotiation

As its name implies, a multiparty negotiation is the type of negotiation that involves more than two parties representing that individual interest. And then a corporate interest of the parties. 

Remember the last time you and your other friends unanimously decided on a venue for a long-awaited hangout? It may interest you that such a negotiation is a typical example of multiparty bargaining. 

Another example, on an international level, could be the coming together of leaders of different nations to discuss an issue(s) of global impact. And examples of these issues are climate change, terrorism, and world peace, amongst others. 

4. Team negotiation

While negotiation sounds naturally like teamwork, there is a type of negotiation called team negotiation. It is a type of bargaining whereby at least one of the parties involved constitutes a team of negotiators. And each, depending on their skill, has an influential role to play in the entire negotiation process.

Assuming, there’s a bank called GREAT CRACKERS Bank, and it wants to merge with another for reasons best known to the bank’s management team. 

To ensure the successful execution of this business deal, Great Crackers Bank will have to select individuals on its team with great negotiation skills to help them get a win-win situation in the negotiation room.

Types of negotiation skills

Remember, at a negotiation table, the interest of all parties involved is at stake.

Therefore, for each party (be it an individual or group) to be able to communicate his or their interest in a proposed negotiation, understanding and some valuable skills are required. And usually, these skills for negotiation determine the outcome of the negotiation process. Some of them are:

1. Doing analysis

Many negotiators employ this skill. It involves a negotiator analyzing himself or the group he belongs to and essentially the other party involved in the proposed negotiations. And it has to do with carefully examining and identifying what he or his group wants to derive from the entire negotiation process. But it doesn’t stop there. 

It also entails a negotiator gathering essential information about the other party(ies) in the negotiation. And then concretely establishing the best alternative to the negotiated outcome for him.

2. Setting a clear and straight agenda

It is the ability to establish definiteness in intent, goal, and interest. So every negotiator must preconceive ahead of time, before walking into the negotiation room, what he wants from a particular negotiation. And therefore, not allowing anything to cause distraction, not even emotions.

3. Rapport building

Beyond being a skill that helps improve your interpersonal relationships, rapport building is a powerful skill in the arsenal of any negotiator. It is a skill that enables individuals and groups to set the right tone at the start of any negotiation process— down to the end.

4. Active listening

Not many people actively listen, but great negotiators do. And it is a habit you must cultivate to help improve your negotiation skills, even as you get to your goal to become a better negotiator. 

Active listening to the other party during a negotiation equips you with good information to capitalize on when negotiating— and aiming for a win-win situation or deal.

5. Questioning skill

While active listening is a great negotiation skill, asking thoughtful questions during a negotiation process is indispensable. 

Thus, you want to do that with finesse by carefully listening when the other party presents his (or their) case. Don’t forget that the other party can be an individual, a vendor of a product or service, an employer, or the management of the business.

Barriers to good Negotiation

Have you asked yourself why you didn’t pass the first job interview you ever went to? What about that failed business deal that could have made you smile with your heart out of your chest? (Knowing that you have money in the bank)

Now note, the questions above are to relive a sad memory in your brain. But the point is to help you realize that there are barriers affecting how good or successful people’s business negotiations turn out. Some of them include:

  1. Lack of preparation
  2. Not defining what they want before walking into the negotiation room
  3. Inability to listen thoroughly
  4. Poor communication skills
  5. Allowing the negotiation process to become personal and emotional.


Exercises and activities to Improve your Negotiation skills

Now, to climb an “elevator” to rise above these barriers, one must be deliberate about improving his negotiation skills in business or at his workplace. For this reason, the following are the practical negotiation skills exercises:

How to Improve your Negotiation skills (In 7 steps)

1. Do your research

If you want to negotiate with power and boldness, you need information in terms of facts. That’s the reason you must do your due diligence through quality research. 

Yes, you need to find all you need to know about the other party. That is the person or business entity that will be negotiating with you. Of course, you want to know who the other party is by asking this question: What do they want if they are a business organization?  

Say you want to negotiate with a realtor concerning a particular property you intend to acquire, you must do your research about the reactor and his company. And also, you would want to arm yourself with knowledge like: how much does similar property goes for in that same area or close by location? (Amongst other things.)

2. Know your BATNA

Before entering into a negotiation, you must know your best alternative to a negotiated agreement (BATNA). Your BATNA is an already established alternative you intend to fall back on when the proposed or current negotiation doesn’t go as planned. 

Let’s continue with a real estate example. (hypothetically naming the realtor Jack Brown, and the real estate he works for, say Crackers Real estate company)

And remember, you want to buy a landed property for around $10000 to $15000 (a range you’ve come up with from quality research). Thus, you book an appointment with Jack Brown, who decided to show you the property. 

No doubt, you loved what you saw—the property. But after much haggling, Brown insisted that his company can’t sell the property for $15000, which is your BATNA.

At such a point, you know you’re better off taking the business deal to another realtor and real estate company.

3. Emotional intelligence

It is true that as a negotiator involved in integrative negotiation, you need to be empathetic. But you must know the difference between being empathetic in dealing with other parties and allowing your emotions to make you miss out on the best the negotiation process has to give you.

No doubt, the latter can lead to despair and frustration, thereby closing opportunities that could have allowed you to improve your negotiation skills.

In order words, your emotional intelligence must be intact. If possible, a score of 10 on a scale of 1 to 10. Many have let their emotions get them massively ripped. You don’t want to do the same for yourself. That’s why you want to walk into the negotiation room with concrete facts and not with an overflow of emotions.

4 Aim for a win-win situation

Many see negotiation as a battle that they need to win. They might be right from an unprofessional standpoint. That’s because professional and great negotiators the world has ever known see negotiation in a different shade. They liken it to the game of puzzles. And that’s trying to solve problems in the process of negotiation.

5. Listening actively (even to non-verbal cues)

Active listening, again? You may ask. 

True, we have looked little into active listening under the subtitle types of negotiation. Thus, you may call it repetition. But that is to let you know how essential listening is for every negotiator and in every negotiation process.

Therefore, as a negotiator, you must train your eyes to listen. It is an exercise to improve your negotiation skills. But how, when eyes are not for listening?

Interestingly, you may have to count on your eyes to listen to the nonverbal cues and languages that your ears cannot hear. And what about if the negotiation happens via a telephone call? Then you want to look out for the tone of the other party.

The tone of a person in a conversation speaks volumes. Yes, it tells you about the genuineness and emotions in what a person is saying. And that can be something to capitalize on in the negotiation process.

6. Probe into the heart of the other party

While a negotiator is advised not to make statements out of touch, they need to ask constructive questions during negotiation. When you master the art of asking the other party well-thought questions, you can earn some tradeoffs from his (or their) responses in the negotiation process.

Also, it makes you control the negotiation in the direction you want to, especially to your advantage. That is because the person doing the questioning in a negotiation is in control.

7. Know when to walk away

Again, know when to walk away. This knowledge will naturally improve your negotiation skills—and better prepare you before each negotiation you initiate.

Negotiators who understand the concept of BATNA know when negotiation comes to a deadlock. At a time like that, they know it is time to walk away because they have arrived at their limit as far as the negotiation process is concerned. 


Becoming an astute negotiator is not rocket science. It takes practice and mastering some negotiation skills, as well as the crucial stages of the negotiation process, which include:

  1. Preparation through research
  2. Discussion (through listening and questioning)
  3. Reaching an agreeable conclusion
  4. Implementation of the agreed conclusion (But in the case of unfruitful negotiation, there might be need for a renegotiation).
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