Improving Negotiation Skills

By Philip Zimmerman

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MAY 2005 - Although negotiation is a basic skill, practiced almost daily in all walks of life, very few have studied it. Last year, the CityBar Center for Continuing Legal Education and ALI-ABA sponsored a program, “Negotiation: Bargaining for Better Results,” conducted by Charles B. Craver, a professor of law at George Washington University Law School.

Craver’s insights included: “You don’t get what you deserve, you get what you negotiate for”; “The negotiator who has the most confidence usually perseveres”; and “If you are an impatient negotiator, you will not do as well as you could otherwise.” His tips to improve negotiation skills include the following:

  • To be a good negotiator, you have to work at it.
  • If you are willing to walk away, you usually make a good deal.
  • When you negotiate, you need to know when to start, when to stop, and your bottom line.
  • Charge for things the other party wants even if they do not matter to you.
  • Puffery and embellishment are acceptable, but lying about what is essential ends trust and the hope of any future successful negotiation.
  • If the other party respects you, they will try harder to agree with you.
  • The other party will walk away from negotiating if an offer is so unreasonable that someone else may offer a better alternative.
  • Know your “best alternative to a negotiated settlement” (BATNA).
  • Be aware of nonverbal communication, such as body language and significant changes in behavior.

For those who would like to learn more about negotiation, I recommend Craver’s book, The Intelligent Negotiator: What to Say, What to Do, How to Get What You Want—Every Time (Prima/Crown, 2002).

Philip Zimmerman, CPA, is an arbitrator and mediator on the American Arbitration Association’s panels and in private practice. His website is




















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