The one-sentence summary

It is possible to negotiate better, find hidden value and enrich relationships in the process.

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  • We negotiate constantly in work and in life. Trying to get the ‘best deal’ can feel like a tug of war, without the fun. But what if the process was more collaborative, and even laid the foundations for a strong future relationship?
  • Important elements include:
    • Identifying your natural negotiating style
    • Developing strategies to deal with difficult situations (and people)
    • Building trust and negotiating more collaboratively
    • Thinking creatively to enrich deal terms
  • Important steps for successful negotiation include:
    • The advantage of opening
    • Using clear, direct and confident language
    • Remaining calm and avoiding generating anger
    • Being completely prepared
    • Keeping the other person in the conversation
    • Avoiding an impasse
    • Using an outside authority if relevant
    • Reframing the issue(s)
  • If you can’t open the negotiation, then first identify their opening bid as an anchor, and then diffuse it by, for example, immediately stating that you were thinking of half as much.
  • Work out what sort of negotiator you are from these five traits (from Richard Shell, author of Bargaining for Advantage):
    • Competing = assertive x uncooperative
    • Collaborating = assertive x cooperative
    • Compromising = sits in between the other four traits
    • Avoiding = passive x uncooperative
    • Accommodating = passive x cooperative
  • Agree a process by asserting the details such as the main points you want to reach agreement on before moving on, the timeframe for reaching a consensus, the venue for the negotiation, who will be involved at each stage, how you will conduct yourselves, and protocols for ending if the negotiation is not successful.
  • Common setbacks include:
  1. The overwhelmer (patronising and playing hardball)
  2. Impasse (deal hits a brick wall)
  3. Ultimatum (take it or leave it, or final offer)
  4. Moving the goalposts
  5. Is there anybody out there? (people stop responding)
  6. Boredom (running out of steam)
  7. Let me check with my boss (claim not to have authority)
  8. Backseat negotiators (someone giving instructions from the wings)
  9. Mistake paralysis (admit mistakes straightaway and get back on track)


  • A good visual metaphor for negotiation is to picture a ball of string. With a single piece of string, a straight tug of war will mean that one side’s gain will mean the other side’s loss.
  • Instead, imagine a tangled ball of multi-coloured string, where one party is interested in blue string and the other is more keen on red. If both negotiators dive in and pull the colour they want, they are unlikely to unravel the full length available, so they will have to make a compromise and cut off a small chunk, leaving the remainder in the ball.
  • This is frustrating, and there is a huge amount of string (or value) left on the table unused.
  • Identify the ZOPA: the Zone Of Possible Agreement. This is defined by walk-away points at one end and best-case scenarios at the other.
  • Identify the BATNA: the Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement.
  • Distinguish between expectations and aspirations. They are not the same thing. They may lead to disappointment initially, but aiming high will always increase standards and success levels in the long run.
  • Overall, you need to have the courage and curiosity to work out what is really important to each party, create as much combined value as possible, and allocate it as optimally as possible for both parties.


  • Nothing. This is a short, well-informed book.