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7 negotiation skills to help you become a better workplace negotiator 


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Jessica Roper, MBA, Director of Career Services

Reviewed by Jessica Roper, MBA, Director of Career Services

At a glance

This article was updated on December 5, 2023.

Employers look for two types of skills in the hiring process: hard and soft. Hard skills relate directly to tasks that employees complete (like using specific software) while soft skills are intangible traits that a person has. Soft skills range from clear communication to problem-solving, and they are typically more challenging to develop. They are particularly critical in a role where you need to negotiate frequently. 

There are seven important skills that can help you become a more effective negotiator. For example, you will need to carefully prepare your argument when negotiating a starting salary. You will then need negotiating tactics to convince your employer that the cost is worth it. Otherwise, you might get a lower pay rate than you want.

Here’s what you need to know when developing negotiation soft skills so you can be more effective in the workplace.

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Learning how to improve negotiation skills

Learning soft skills can be difficult because they often require practice, training, mindfulness and feedback to master. Fortunately, you can create opportunities to become a better negotiator in low-risk settings, which will prepare you to achieve a good outcome in higher-risk challenges. 

Negotiation skills training

Research negotiation training providers in your area. Some professional organizations might offer weekend workshops, night classes or one-day seminars to hone your negotiating skills. These sessions will combine learning with practice and should provide opportunities for you to simulate negotiations you might face in the workplace. 

You can also look into continuing your education to hone your bargaining skills. For example, a business analytics certificate can help you with soft skills like critical thinking and decision-making. Additional education could potentially help you enhance your career as well. 

The role of body language in negotiations

You can practice negotiation skills without actually speaking to anyone. Practice speaking in front of a mirror or record yourself alone at home. Check your body language to see whether it helps or hurts your cause. Here are a few ways body language may help you negotiate

  • Check your posture: Sit up straight without being rigid. Consider how leaning forward or relaxing backward changes how you appear. This can also help you read others’ body language. 
  • Practice eye contact: You don’t need to stare at the other person 100% of the time. However, natural and consistent eye contact can help in a negotiation.
  • Learn to read facial expressions: Changes in eyebrow position, pursing of the mouth and other facial indicators can reflect how a person perceives your message
  • Look at hand placement: Hands and arms can communicate interest, disinterest and other emotions. 

Learning to read body language is more natural to some people than to others. You might ask for help from a friend or family member to practice your own body language while learning to read the movements of others. 

Adapting your negotiation style

Becoming a better negotiator can sometimes feel like hitting a moving target. This is because negotiation strategies change depending on the people you talk to. Develop different styles that you can pull from depending on whom you are speaking with. This will make you more effective than simply repeating the same negotiation tactics each time. 

Learning from past negotiations

Anytime you find yourself in a safe negotiation setting (like practicing at a seminar or bargaining between pizza or sushi with your partner) ask for feedback on the discussion. Tell your friends and co-workers that you are trying to grow your negotiation skills and any advice is appreciated.

7 valuable negotiation skills for professionals

You don’t need to become an expert overnight, but if you learn from each negotiation, you can build up skills over time. Here are seven skills you can focus on. 

1. Active listening

One big mistake with negotiations is coming to the table knowing what you want to say without considering what the other person wants to communicate. Active listening involves focusing on specific messages of the other person and developing a thoughtful response — as opposed to impatiently waiting for them to stop talking so you can make your next point. 

Listening is a powerful strategy in negotiation. If you understand the motives and reasoning of the other person, you can counter their concerns with clear solutions that align your goals with theirs. 

2. Effective communication

This involves presenting your ideas in a clear, concise manner. If the person you are negotiating with is also practicing active listening, they should clearly understand what you want and why. Consider stating your intent and then defending it with multiple reasons that tie back to your original goal (not unlike a thesis statement that is defended with several essay paragraphs).

Nonverbal communication also plays a key role. The other party will notice if you are getting angry, upset or dejected from the experience. 

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3. Emotional intelligence

Emotional intelligence (also called emotional IQ) is the ability to read emotions — both yours and others — and control your emotional reactions in different situations. If you are looking at examples of negotiation skills, you would see how someone with a low emotional IQ wouldn’t notice when another person is getting upset or wouldn’t be able to control their anger if the negotiation didn’t go their way. 

Emotional intelligence can be a difficult to build up, but you can practice this soft skill throughout the day to learn more about yourself and others. 

4. Thorough preparation

Strategic negotiators do their research before they enter a meeting. Research will not only help you make concise points in your favor, but it will also help you come up with creative solutions to different problems. 

For example, if you are negotiating with your boss, consider their specific motivations and goals. They want to save money while increasing productivity. They may want premium performance for a bargain price. You need to make a case that giving you a raise (which seems like it would cost the company money) would actually meet these goals. 

Preparation can also make you feel more confident entering a negotiation because you don’t have to worry about outside factors ruining your plans. 

5. Building rapport and trust

Negotiations have different levels of stress. Negotiating dinner plans with your partner should be more fun than asking your boss for a raise. Fortunately, you can reduce your stress by building rapport with the people you meet with. By showing respect and focusing on a fair solution for both parties, you can have open and honest conversations. 

Your goal is to find common ground in a professional manner so everyone wins — not to make the other party concede so only you win. 

6. Problem-solving and creativity

Effective negotiators don’t make demands and expect everyone else to accommodate them. Instead, they identify pain points and provide multiple solutions (that conveniently support their end goals). Look into training opportunities for negotiation skills that allow you to come up with multiple solutions to problems on the spot. 

These creative solutions may increase the chances that you walk away with at least some of what you ask for. Instead of approaching the negotiation with an all-or-nothing mentality, prioritize the most important factors of the deal. 

7. Assertiveness and confidence

Finally, don’t forget to walk into the room with confidence. You need to be ready to speak up and advocate for your needs. If you aren’t an assertive negotiator, you might not be prepared to argue your points or develop counterarguments if your request is denied. Confidence is an important part of effective negotiation skills.

In a fair negotiation, both parties feel confident they are fully heard and understood. While active listening allows you to cater to the emotional needs of the other party, confidence can ensure that your specific needs are also met.

Most business professionals use a combination of all these skills during a negotiation. For example, confidence without preparation won’t be effective because you won’t have the knowledge you need to come up with solutions. Consider your strengths and weaknesses as you develop a plan to be a better negotiator. 

Career resources at University of Phoenix

Don’t embark on your career journey alone! University of Phoenix offers career-relevant skills mapped to each course as well as career services offerings for life. If you want more insights into career development and growth, subscribe to the UOPX Career With Confidence™ newsletter on LinkedIn. The weekly publication features career development content curated by our career coaches.

University of Phoenix also equips its students and graduates with the following resources to help them on their professional paths.

  • Career Services for Life®: Available to UOPX students and graduates, this offering comprises complimentary career coaching, including guidance on how to build a personal brand and write a resumé.
  • Free career resources: Browse a range of downloadable guides and templates to help you optimize your LinkedIn® profile, get ready for a job interview and write a resumé and cover letter.
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Michael Feder


Michael Feder is a content marketing specialist at University of Phoenix, where he researches and writes on a variety of topics, ranging from healthcare to IT. He is a graduate of the Johns Hopkins University Writing Seminars program and a New Jersey native!


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