The collapse of pay talks with the Royal Mail, the junior doctors and the teaching unions, highlights the challenges of negotiating when passions are running high. These types of negotiation conversations can begin as a win-lose situation, with both sides taking an adversarial approach. In these types of situations, the secret to setting yourself up for success is progressing to a win-win negotiation. This is when both parties move on from confrontation about time and price and bring new variables to the table to find an overlapping position. This is not about relinquishing power – it’s about taking a balanced approach with both sides feeling like equals in the conversation.  

Below are the four steps you need to follow to be successful in a win-win negotiation: 


Step 1. Prepare ahead 

Take a few moments to clarify in your own mind exactly what you want to achieve from the negotiation conversation. Prepare different variables to bring to the table, the more you have, the more fruitful the negotiation will be. You need to prepare exactly what you want and what you are prepared to offer in return (this means writing a shopping list for you and for them!) Try to anticipate any curve balls that may come your way by planning your response. Keep your ambition levels high during your preparation, taking care not to negotiate with yourself. A great way to boost your confidence is to remind yourself that you wouldn’t be having the conversation if there wasn’t a deal to be done. 

 Step 2. Manage the mood 

You need to draw on your emotional intelligence to manage the mood during the negotiation. Optimism and enthusiasm are contagious – so even if the other side becomes tactical, don’t allow them to affect your mood. Instead keep the mood appropriate for the situation. By being positive and keeping the negotiation conversation moving forward you are more likely to achieve negotiation success.   

Step 3. Trade your way to success 

The key to achieving a win-win negotiation is to stay confident. A great way to do this is by trading your way to success in bite-size chunks rather than trying to put all your eggs in one basket at the beginning. Introducing new variables will help you maintain momentum and control the negotiations. Respond to their proposal with a relevant conditional counter proposal. Traditional negotiation training courses have often argued that you should never concede in a negotiation, but this depends on your definition of a concession. In reality, one party or the other needs to concede on some of their variables if they want to get closure. The challenge is to pick the right variables to concede on. This takes control, discipline and the ability to think live in the moment.  

Step 4. Keep track of the negotiations 

This is particularly important in a win-win negotiation where there are a lot of different variables on the table. A powerful way to keep track of the different variable is to give a verbal summary. This will help both you and the other party summarize what has been discussed and agreed, what has been discussed and not agreed and what you would still like to discuss. Remember, to take good notes as this will help you communicate clearly and confidently. If the negotiation is very complicated, take someone with you and ask them to help you keep track by taking notes too. Above all don’t be afraid to take your time.  

Finally, it’s important to remember you can’t adopt a win-win approach to negotiation on the fly, it takes both will and skill; you need to want to be like this and have the know-how to be able to achieve it. By following the steps above, you will have the techniques at your fingertips to find an overlapping position that works for both parties. A reminder of the power of communication –  for as Churchill famously said, “to jaw-jaw is better than to war war.”