The Seven Basic Steps in Negotiation

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The negotiation process entails definite steps, even though they may flow easily into each other. The following seven simple steps will do very well in implementing an effective negotiation process and will cover all the critical elements of the negotiation process.

Step 1: Getting to know the negotiators

The negotiators are also made up of you. If you are having a facade, remove it. Negotiating is like any other social situation that has a business purpose. It moves more efficiently when the parties take a little time to get to know one another. It is helpful to go through the various stakeholders before the negotiations begin. Naturally, it is critical that you are self-aware. Therefore, your first question must be: Who am I in this negotiation? Am I the tough fighter, the conciliator, the client, the businessperson?

Once you have answered that and are aware of your own goals, approach, and attitude, proceeds next to being aware of the other person.

Know the Level of Authority – Since agreement is the crucial goal of any negotiation, it is imperative to know from the start the level of authority of the party you are negotiating with.

Step 2: Stating Goals and Objectives

Remember that you need to find out your own interests or needs so your discussion can be focused on a goal. Ask yourself what success in the negotiation would look like to you. After the opening, negotiating usually flows into a general statement of goals and objectives by the involved parties.

Positive Communication – Effective communication and active listening are critical at this stage. The person making the opening statement should then wait for feedback from the other party to understand if both parties have matching goals and objectives. If there are any deviations, now is the time to realize them.

It is normally a good idea to make the initial statements positive and agreeable. This is no time for anger or competition. An environment of cooperation and mutual trust is ideal at this stage.

Step 3: Starting the Process –

Some negotiations are complex and have many issues to resolve. Others may have only a few. No one can accurately guess the direction negotiations will take until both parties have presented the issues.

Combining or Splitting Issues – Often issues are multi-layered, so the solution to one is interlinked with the solution to another. For example, “I will not agree to buy the pre-owned vehicle at that price, unless a free one-year warranty is included.” On the other hand, there might also be an endeavor to split issues to make them mutually exclusive.

Step 4: Revealing Disagreement and Conflict

Once the issues have been defined, differences and conflict often will take place. This is commonplace, and you should expect it. Good negotiators never try to evade this stage because they understand that this process of give and take is where lucrative deals are often made.

Wants vs. Needs – When showcasing the issues, most negotiators will describe what they want. “Wants” symbolize positions and are often based on opinions. It is the job of the other negotiator to find out what the person needs, or will find satisfactory. “Needs” represent the resolution minimums and are usually based on data. Remember that few negotiators get all they want, but good negotiators will work to get as much as possible.

Step 5: Narrowing the Gap between Negotiators

Most parties want to sort out differences, especially when something is at stake for them. This holds especially true when negotiating. During the negotiation, normally one party will move toward common ground. Being flexible, within limits, is an influential tool in negotiation. A good negotiator can expand several possibilities that will give way to a good result. Statements reflecting a willingness to test the waters or send up a trial balloon in the discussions will often begin with phrases like, “Suppose that …?” “What if …?” or “How would you feel about…?” When these statements begin, you should listen carefully to see if they point toward an offer to attempt resolution.

Step 6: Finding Alternatives for Resolution

Sometimes removing substantial gaps in the negotiating distance between the parties requires innovative thinking. In mediation, this is called the “problem solving” or “brainstorming” step. You can use the same tools a mediator uses to help bring parties closer to the common ground by “unfixing” your position.

Step 7: Agreement in Principle, Settlement, and Acknowledgment

When a consensus is reached, you will need to confirm it. You will need a decision about how the final agreement will be achieved, especially if additional approval is required. Reducing the agreement in principle to some form of writing will reduce the danger of a misapprehension later.


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