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15 Negotiation Skills You Should Develop

By Steve Smith

The information presented here is true and accurate as of the date of publication. DeVry’s programmatic offerings and their accreditations are subject to change. Please refer to the current academic catalog for details.

May 21, 2024

8 min read


Negotiation is a strategic discussion meant to resolve an issue or make transactions in a way that is mutually acceptable to two or more parties. In these give-and-take discussions, parties have demands, but also know that they each need to make concessions, which means negotiations typically end in compromise. Negotiations can take place between buyers and sellers, employers and job candidates, governments or policy makers.


In business, regardless of the industry, strong negotiation skills are going to play a role. For example, you may find yourself negotiating for a budget increase for your department or a project that’s increased in scope, or you may have to close a sale with multiple contingencies and complexities. In both situations, how well you can argue and compromise for the resources you need depends on your ability to effectively communicate and reach a place where everyone feels satisfied.


In this article, we’ll discuss the importance of strong negotiation skills and describe 15 of them that you can develop. Along the way, you’ll begin to understand the importance of these skills, especially if you’re planning to pursue management-level positions in business. 

1. Strategy

First on our list of negotiation skills is strategy. Before beginning any negotiation, an effective strategy demands an understanding of what tactics may work and may not work, matching them with the strengths and weaknesses of the party you’re going to be working with. This will enable you to customize your strategy for each negotiation.

Consider how you will develop your strategy for each step of the negotiation process

  • Preparation: Establish what you hope to accomplish or gain and set realistic expectations. Consider what points you’re willing to give and take on, and what happens next in case you don’t walk away with everything you wanted.

  • Exchanging information: When exchanging information with the other party, take into consideration that they have most likely done their fair share of preparation as well. You will make a stronger case if you’re able to articulate your position and what you want from the negotiation in very clear terms.

  • Bargaining: During the bargaining stage, it’s important to listen to the other party without being combative or unyielding in your approach. This sets the stage for a cooperative atmosphere rather than a confrontational one. Negotiation can take a long time, so be prepared to take it easy and avoid rushing the process.

  • Closing the deal: It’s best to put the final agreement in the form of a written contract which is more enforceable should the other party not follow through on their commitments.

By following this 4-step process, your strategy for negotiating will be much clearer, and will help you gain a better understanding of the roles of the people involved, the value they offer and any advantages they may have coming into the process.


A couple of important negotiation skills training acronyms that you may not have heard before are ZOPA (Zone of Possible Agreement) and BATNA (Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement.) ZOPA will help you get a sense of where the overlap is between your positions. BATNA helps you determine the next course of action if a negotiation breaks down.

2. Persuasion

Persuasion is an important part of any effective negotiation, as it can help you to lay out your terms, defining why your proposed solution is the best one and encouraging others to see things your way. Following the principles of the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle, a good negotiator can use these basic modes of persuasion:

  • Ethos: This focuses on trust, which forms the foundation of any argument, allowing a negotiator to establish their credibility, inspire confidence and gain the trust of others.

  • Logos: Refers to one’s ability to use logic and reasoning to persuade others through the use of diligent research with supporting evidence from credible sources.

  • Pathos: Uses the power of feelings to form emotional connections through emotional intelligence and creates empathy with the speaker’s point of view.

  • Kairos: This means tailoring your argument to the right time and place. A speech delivered to the wrong audience isn’t going to make nearly as big an impact as one that’s specifically designed with the listener in mind.

3. Decision Making

Strong decision-making skills are essential in many careers. Reacting decisively to the other side’s proposal may make the difference between a successful and swiftly concluded deal and a prolonged, unproductive and stressful argument. As a skilled decision maker, you’ll know when to shake hands on a deal or walk away from one.

4. Emotional Intelligence

You may find yourself in an emotionally-charged negotiation where your ability to self-regulate and remain emotionally intelligent may make a big difference in the outcome. This level of restraint can play a pivotal role when you need to have difficult conversations without hurting others’ feelings, resolve conflicts, coach, motivate or improve relationships with others.

5. Rapport Building

Rapport is the positive, meaningful relationship built between two people. It develops when individuals gain mutual trust through similar experiences and behaviors, or shared beliefs or interests. 

Four elements of rapport include empathy, authenticity, similarity and shared experiences. By building rapport, you may be able to ease tensions at the negotiating table, promote collaboration and increase the likelihood of reaching a compromise. 

6. Communication

Strong communication skills allow effective negotiators to clearly articulate their position, let their counterparts know where they stand and what they want to gain from the negotiation. In a complex negotiation, a good communicator will engage the other side civilly, yet assertively, as they work to reach an agreeable solution.

7. Non-Verbal Communication

We can transfer information or decipher how our colleagues or opponents are feeling through non-verbal communication. The science of how to read this is a key negotiation skill because expressions and physical movements can speak volumes about how a person is feeling or how they receive information, which can enable you to adjust your presentation or approach accordingly. 

Examples of non-verbal communication can include:

  • Body language and movement: The way someone positions their body in response to a situation or their environment is a big part of reading body language. The way a person moves their body when walking, the speed they’re moving at, or whether they sit still or fidget can convey a lot of different information about how they’re feeling.

  • Posture: The way a person sits or stands can indicate their comfort level, professionalism or disposition towards other people or the conversation itself.

  • Gestures: Nonverbal gestures may be used intentionally or unintentionally, to convey feelings. For example, a person making a thumbs up gesture is generally indicating their approval or delight.

  • Eye contact: The use or absence of eye contact is an effective way to indicate your level of interest in another person or what they’re saying. For example, looking at your phone or staring off into the distance while another person is talking to you may communicate disrespect or lack of interest.

  • Touch: Commonly used to convey positive emotions, touch can be a powerful form of communication. When used appropriately, an embrace or a simple hand placed on a shoulder can convey support or empathy.

8. Creativity

Defined as the ability to think about something in a new or different way or to generate new ideas, creativity is a useful negotiation skill. Creative thinking in the workplace has been known to increase employee attraction and retention, improve teamwork and collaboration, and enhance productivity and problem-solving. 

Bringing a creative solution to the table that surprises the other party but that they find value in might help you both move toward an agreement. 

9. Collaborative Problem Solving

A collaborative problem solving approach can lead to a successful negotiation, since both parties feel like they are working toward a mutually beneficial result. This type of problem solving is rooted in “yes, and” thinking which builds on both parties’ ideas, and “win-win abundance” thinking which allows you to develop solutions that are beneficial to both parties. When negotiating with an abundance mentality, both parties can walk away feeling good.

10. Assertiveness

Not to be confused with aggressiveness, assertiveness is a skill that can help you advocate for what you need clearly and confidently. Your strong communication skills will help you balance assertiveness with empathy, allowing you to express your perspectives, goals and intentions directly and succinctly while putting yourself in the other party’s shoes. 

11. Conflict Resolution

In the business world, as in life, conflict is inevitable. But debate doesn’t have to lead to division. Conflict resolution skills are essential in negotiating, and allows good negotiators to combine objectivity with patience, flexibility and a positive attitude. If things start to escalate, active listening with empathy can go a long way in helping to settle heated conversations, improve relationships and working toward a solution.

12. Active Listening

Active listeners use a mixture of verbal and non-verbal cues to signal to the speaker that they are not only paying attention but absorbing what they’re saying. As a highly valued communication skill, active listening can help you to engage more in a discussion and help you retain details.  

In active listening, you carefully consider the speaker’s words as they speak, rather than thinking about what you want to say next. This higher level of engagement on your end will help you keep track of critical information and allow you to connect better with the other person.  

Verbal active listening techniques include paraphrasing, where the listener verbally summarizes the main points of what the speaker said to show that they understood, asking open-ended questions to dive deeper into a subject and non-verbal cues such as nodding, making eye contact and avoiding distracting movements.

13. Patience

Patience can be a powerful negotiating tool, aside from helping to reduce stress and promote better collaboration. Realizing that some discussions can take a long time to complete and may involve many rounds of renegotiation and counteroffers, good negotiators practice patience to carefully assess the situation and avoid rushing things toward a swift conclusion.

14. Research

In business negotiations involving multiple parties with conflicting needs, strong research skills can be used to gather all the facts pertinent to the negotiation, as well as any background information that will help you gain important context. 

This negotiation skill can help you gain a more complete understanding of the landscape, the parties involved, alternative solutions or global perspectives, so that you’re better able to anticipate the arguments the other side is likely to make or propose a solution they might be intrigued by.

15. Expectation Management

Last on our list of negotiation skills, but certainly not least, is expectation management. Just as an effective manager sets expectations and goals for team members, negotiators must set and manage their expectations during negotiations. Using this skill, a good negotiator maintains a balance between taking a firm stance for their interests and staying flexible in order to remain collaborative. As conversations ebb and flow, adjusting expectations may make the difference between a successful negotiation and one that breaks down.

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Emphasizing many of the core skills and concepts employers look for in today’s complex business environment, our MBA degree program provides coursework in Business Economics, Leadership and Organizational behavior, and even Negotiation Skills! 

Our MBA program can be focused toward your personal and professional interests by offering 10 diverse specializations, including Accounting, Human Resources, Marketing, Global Supply Chain Management, Health Services and more. Explore them all to find out which one is right for you

Concerned about the time it may take to complete your degree? With at least 9 credit hours of qualifying Prior Learning Credit and on an accelerated schedule, you can earn your Keller master’s degree in as few as 12 months, or 2 years and 2 months on a normal one.1

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1 Normal time assumes completion of 3 semesters, enrollment in an average of 6 credit hours per semester and continuous, year-round enrollment with no breaks. Accelerated time to complete requires at least 9 credit hours of Prior Learning Credit. Assumes completion of 3 semesters, enrollment in an average of 10 credit hours per semester and continuous, full-time year-round enrollment with no breaks per 12-month period. Does not apply to MBA with Specialization. Time to complete and details vary by specialization. See the Keller Academic Catalog for complete program details.

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